Tuesday, October 31, 2006


i seem to be running a little low on strange obsessions lately. so when this sentence caught my eye this morning, i finally had the chance to close the obsession gap:
"They shouted 'zurga,'" she said, an Arabic word for black that carries the connotation of a racial slur.
my arabic vocabulary is woefully short on racial slurs, so i thought i would look into it.

anyway, some suggest that "zurga" is really زنج ("zanj" or "zinj" in formal arabic). zinj is in my dictionary as a term for black person. and it occurs to me that's probably where the lost city of zinj gets its name. the city of zinj is a mythical city that is supposed to be located somewhere in the heart of subsaharan africa. michael crichton set his novel "congo" in the city (his version was populated by talking gorillas). thanks that book and its movie and video game spinoffs, it is now virtually impossible to google up any link about pre-critchton version of the legendary city.

i also found this:
Zurga of course is bedouine Arabic form of Zurqa ("blueness") and an old Arabic usage for dark skin color.
"zurqa" (زرقاء) is the feminine form of the adjective "blue."

the fact that sudanese forces would be using a racial slur for black people is a little ironic, since the name "sudan" itself comes from the arabic word for black (سود), probably referring to the color of the skin of the people who live there.