Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guest not weak

I had been wondering about Mohammed Deif this week. Not whether he was killed in the Israeli strike on his house, but more about his name. When I read the name "Deif" I mentally translated that to ضعيف, which means "weak." Which would have been pretty funny if a Hamas commander was named "Commander Weak." It is funny like the police officer I once met whose last name was "Lawless."

But today's NYT ruined the joke:
Mr. Deif’s real family name is al-Masri. Deif is an Arabic nickname meaning “guest” in Arabic, because he does not settle in one home.

 Okay, so it is ضيف ("guest") not ضعيف ("weak"). I hadn't thought of that, and "guest" does make a bit more sense for a nom de guerre. Because the 'ayn doesn't exist in English it is often left out of transliterations. Which is why I wrongly assumed it was present in "Deif."

Stupid lack of consistent Arabic transliteration systems...