Sunday, March 30, 2008

70 names of a dog in Arabic Language

It is said that the great poet and linguist of the eleventh century, Abul-Ala Al-Miary, who was blind, stumbled into one of the princes at the court of Saleh ibn Mirdas, the autonomous ruler of Northern Syria. The noble guest lost his temper, especially because the poet was poor, and poor poets, are not supposed to stumble into rich nobility! So the guest called the poet an ignorant dog. Abul-Ala answered swiftly: “the dog among us is the one who does not know seventy names for the dog!” Of course the noble guest, the prince and half the linguists of the court could not count so many names. Later on, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the preservation of the language became an obsession, the seventy names were listed. They were not quite synonymous, for they did not all simply mean: “dog”, rather, they were descriptions of a dog’s conditions; an angry dog had a name different from a joyful one, the dog that had one ear pointing up and the other down had a name different from the one who had both ears up or both ears down. What is true of the dog is true of most other creatures.

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