Friday, October 06, 2006

dhipshits of the right

i was googling around this morning and by accident stumbled upon the term dhimmicrat.

"dhimma" (ذمة) is an arabic word for a "covenant of protection." a "dhimmi" (ذمي) is a free non-muslim subject of a country under shariah. the idea is that shariah extends special protections to certain non-muslims and so "dhimmi" is the legal classification for the people who are under the state's covenant of protection. of course, in the long history of islam, there have been plenty of times when being a dhimmi was no picnic. many muslim regimes imposed special taxes and other penalties on their "protected subjects." in the u.s., right wing commentators have picked out the very worst examples and labeled them as examples "dhimmitude" (a mutli-lingual monstrosity if there ever was one). thus the word "dhimmi", which literally means "protected one", got transformed in the right wing blogisphere into a word for oppression.

the term "dhimmicrat" is an attempted slur. it suggests that democrats want or at least are helping to bring about a society where non-muslims are second class citizens. let's pause for a moment to marvel at the cleverness of whoever came up with the term.

done? okay. here's the thing, it gets even stupider than that. the "dhimmicrat" play on words only works because the people who use it don't have a clue how the word "dhimmi" is actually pronounced. it doesn't really have a "d" sound in it at all. if it were an english word, it probably would be spelled "thimmi"

in english we use "th" to represent two distinct sounds. there's the "th" in "three," "think," or "thick", and there's the "th" in "these," "those," or "thus." if you think about it, they're actually two quite different sounds. but most native english speakers never think about it. i never did until i started learning arabic.

but in arabic, it is important to distinguish between the two ways to make the "th" sound. each of those sounds is represented by a different letter. if you mix them up, you might be saying an entirely different word.

to distinguish between the two "th" sounds, linguists who developed the transliteration system use "th" and "dh." "th" is used for the sound represented by the "thaa" (ث); that's the sound like the "th" in "three"/"think"/"thick." "dh" is used for the sound represented by a "dhal" (ذ); that's the sound like the "th" in "these"/"those"/"thus." "dhimma" and "dhimmi" start with a dhal, not a thaa. the first sound in the word is like the first sound in the word "these." (in some spoken arabic dialects a dhaal is pronounced like a "z")

my point is that "dhimmi" doesn't sound much like "demo." the people who push the "dhimmicrat" label aren't quite as clever as they seem to think they are.