Surprised by Arabic

At its largest extent, the Roman Empire surrounded Middle Earth, literally “The Mediterranean.”



In the parlance of social media, the Romans SHOUTED all their written words — minuscules would not arrive to soften the literal commotion until the 7th Century. Latin seems suited for chiseling into stone, mostly with straight lines that run from left to right. It’s not easy to curve while chiseling your way along a flat rock-face. A glance at the English alphabet reveals that individual letters also run from left to right, letters such as B D E F K L P R

The letter “J” is quite the exception. It’s one reason that some school children do this:


That letter never appears in Roman imperial inscriptions, nor did U, nor did W.

K, Y and Z were adopted to accommodate Greek vocabulary. They are not the Etruscan uttering way. Nay, they ain’t.

Let’s look at a language that appeals to my left-handedness. It’s quite a relief to see my writing as I write. Arabic was not designed with a chisel in mind. The language begins with cursive in mind, not a bland sequence of letters imprisoned within imaginary boxes, then proclaimed “words.”

My last post looked at a procrustean camel, an animal led to the eye of a needle by dint of faulty translation. Why are mistranslations carved into stone? Do not allow your metaphors to become stilted, clunky, confusing and hackneyed. That’s what I say.

Well, Arabic comes equipped with a J-sound. In fact, it’s standard equipment. However, the language does not permit a “P” letter, so please apply a “B” for words like Paris: call it Baris and learn to live with it. Palestine never needed a “P” because that name is an imposition anyway: they are the Philistines. Arabic comes equipped with an “F” sound.



25+ Arabic Alphabet Letters


Instead of imaginary boxes, Arabic allows for up to four ways to write each letter of the alphabet. Learners of this language and readers of the Qur’an receive the gift of ten diacritical marks to aid the learning process in a clean and coherent manner. Should you ever decide to tackle Arabic, this is handy indeed. Those marks reveal the sound one millimeter at a time; however, once you become comfortable and confident with the words you can dispense with diacriticals altogether — you’ll recognize the pattern and you won’t need the training wheels.

Returning to the Romans for a moment: would you ever wish to return to Roman numerals once you’ve learned the efficacy of Arabic numerals? The word “cipher” in English is from the Arabic word for “zero”:صفر

Here is a tip for my readers who consider learning German or Arabic: if you can pronounce Cincinnati you can pronounce  صفر (sifr). Just pedanting.

Learning languages removes artificial separations between cultures and lifestyles. Those separations take the form of borders, walls and prejudice. In their stead you acquire perspectives that remove each border, wall and prejudice. They serve the minions of geopolitical advantage and the clarion to endless war, endless confusion and endless imprisonment. Producing propaganda is criminal activity. Always. Whatever your intention.

And go vegan while you’re at it. No sentient being benefits by closing the book on the Anthropocene 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

4 thoughts on “Surprised by Arabic”

  1. I also think it would serve everybody, if we learned more foreign languages, especially during childhood. Children have such curiosity about and capacity for new words, and it would help dispel prejudice about different cultures (maybe only in an ideal world, but it is worth a try!).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hallo Tanja, Thank you for the kind response and for your insight. My years as an exchange student in Germany (Giessen) were formative and valuable. It was also a humbling process to discover how it reduces so many barriers to understanding — not merely in an ideal world, but on the only planet we’ll ever share.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Palestina was the name given by the Romans to the land already inhabited by the Hebrews because they dared revolt against Rome. What you call Palestine today is a collection of families each inhabiting a specific town. From their names you can tell where they come from, usually Egypt and greater Syria. As for the Egyptians well only 20% of the Hebrews left Egypt which is around 600,000 people or families. The reason there are so many similarities between Arab and Jewish culture is because Mohamed wanted to get the Jews to convert to the new religion in Medina. Refusing to do so got them all killed. What is amazing the Hebrews survived until today and now once again govern this part of the Middle Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Michael, Thank you for the information and for the perspective you provide, even when I disagree. A free-flowing exchange of perspectives based on verifiable facts seems the only way forward. Misinformation and disinformation move around this tiny planet at a pace and volume never contemplated at the wane of the 20th Century. Lisa and I have been watching the science fiction series created in the 1970’s that contemplated an analog existence on a moon colony a couple decades into the future, complete with an advanced computer that issued output on paper tapes and cards 🙂


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