Monday, March 22, 2010

Size Matters

I couldn't have made this one up if I had tried.

From Saudi Arabia Refuses Pakistani Diplomat Over Vulgar Name Translation, dated February 14th:

In an unfortunate result of translation, Pakistani diplomat Akbar Zeb will not become the next Pakistani ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Zeb's credentials seem in order: He is the former ambassador to the United States, India and South Africa. He held the post of High Commissioner Designate of Pakistan to Canada and is the former director general of Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

But despite Mr. Zeb's impressive career, the 55-year-old diplomat's name proved to be the immovable hurdle. When translated into Arabic, Akbar Zeb means "Biggest Dick." In a region that stresses modesty, particularly in public, this could not stand.

You know, at least in English, the translation could be taken in more than one way.

Fox News carried the story, too:

A high-ranking Pakistani diplomat reportedly cannot be appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia because in Arabic his name translates into a phrase more appropriate for a porn star, referring to the size of male genitals, Foreign Policy reported.

The Arabic transaltion of Akbar Zeb to "biggest d**k" has overwhelmed Saudi officials who have refused to allow his post there.

Zeb has run into this problem before when Pakistan tried to appoint him as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, where he was rejected for the same reason, according to Foreign Policy.

Ah - but then the story turned out not to be true:

I wrote last week about Pakistan's High Commissioner to Canada Akbar Zeb's reported rejection as ambassador to Saudi Arabia due to the unfortunate Arabic translation of his name as "biggest dick." Alas, the story turns out to be false: Mr. Zeb has responded, saying that the press reports are nothing more than "a practical joke someone played on the Internet." Zeb denies that he was ever considered for an ambassadorial position in Saudi Arabia; lending credence to his account, he has only been stationed in Ottawa for nine months of a planned three-year assignment, and Pakistan's ambassador to Saudi Arabia is only four months into his tenure.

Maimoona Amjad, the press counsellor for Pakistan's High Commission in Ottawa, also confirmed to FP that the story was untrue. There is "no question that he will accept a post anywhere but Canada," she said, referring to the rumor as "completely baseless" and "rubbish."

The story seems to have originated with this Arab Times article, and spread like wildfire throughout the English-language press from there. Let this be a lesson: Don't believe everything you read in print. Sometimes, the press gets hold of a story and, before checking all the facts, goes off half-cocked.




Do you get it?


You know, we could pick some obscure language -- or better yet, pick a constructed language (like Esperanto) -- and say that "Barack Obama" means thus-and-such, or "Nancy Pelosi" really means this-and-that, and see how much mileage we get from the story.


Klingon! That's it! Klingon!!

Did you know that "Hillary Clinton" means "Corrupt, incompetent she-devil" in Klingon?


And, did you know that "Joe Biden" means "Second-fiddle to somebody's puppet" in Glossolalian?


Did you know that in Jibberishese, "Barack Hussein" means "Big change bigger problem"?

And, "Obama" means "One big-ass mistake, America"!

No, really!


Big change, bigger problem, bi-i-i-ig mistake!

(And, after all, size matters!)

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