A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

language lessons from SANA

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 9, 2006

SANA continues to delight the English linguophile, with reports of local press headlines like the following:

Assistant Regional Secretary of the Bath Party Bkhitan calls to boost dialogue and divulge deluding suggestions.


The alliterative quality of this translation is lovely, but what on earth does it mean? Who does Bkhitan think will willingly announce him (or her) self as the proud possessor of a deluding suggestion?

Other news items are more endearing, like Thawra’s report from the “Damascus countryside” (which sounds much more poetic than the original reef Dimashq) on the First Conference of Syrian Beekeepers: http://www.sana.org/eng/21/2006/12/06/90944.htm.

SANA’s most intriguing story, at least from a linguistic perspective, is this:

Almustaqbal Men Burn Syrian Citizens Shops

BEIRUT, (SANA) – Lebanese newspaper divulged on Thursday that earlier this month, members of the Future Movement Almustaqbal, set to fire to three magazines for Syrian citizens in Beirut district of Sabra.



Al-Akhbar daily said in a report, a witness to these accidents was threatened by the movement to liquidate everyone testifies against them in the case before justice.


Leaving aside the issues of 1) why al-Mustaqbal’s supporters are such hoodlums and 2) what kind of pro-democracy, pro-western party advocates “liquidation” rather than the rule of law, the slippage from magasin (French for shop) to magazine is fascinating.

Why? Magazine and magasin both derive from Arabic: makhzan. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following definition for “magazine”:

1583, “place where goods are stored, esp. military ammunition,” from M.Fr. magasin “warehouse, depot, store,” from It. magazzino, from Arabic makhazin, pl. of makhzan “storehouse,” from khazana “to store up.” The original sense is almost obsolete; meaning “periodical journal” dates from the publication of the first one, “Gentleman’s Magazine,” in 1731, from earlier use of the word for a printed list of military stores and information, or in a fig. sense, from the publication being a “storehouse” of information.


Pity though as the image of irate Mustaqbali youth righteously burning magazines published for Lebanon’s population of migrant Syrian laborers is really too much.


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