Thursday, January 22, 2009

نعمة الله

it seems like every article i read about afghanistan has a line like this:
"We don't go outside at night," said Mr. Niamatullah, who, like many Afghans, uses one name.
just about every time i see that "one name" claim in an article, i notice that the alleged "one name" is really two or more arabic words--words that are written separately in arabic script but are for some reason squished together when transliterated into latin characters. it's like reading an article quoting someone named johnsmith, "who, like most americans, uses only one name."

i wonder who comes up with the latin transliteration of these names and decides to eliminate the space. was it the reporter? the reporter's translator? i doubt a random kandahari would know how to write his name in anything other than persian/arabic script. the interviewee probably didn't tell the reporter that he uses only one word for a name. if he wrote his name down as he knows how to do it, there would be a clear space between the words. so why is this "one name" idea so widespread among reporters? is it some weird practical joke cooked up by the pashtu/dari translator club?

UPDATE: but see the comments. oops.