In the comments of Dr. Bertonneau’s most recent portion of his valuable series on TS Eliot, I wondered idly why the Powers decided that we ought to use “Muslim” in place of the traditional “Moslem.” There followed some interesting offline conversations with Ilion and another regular commenter at the Orthosphere, which led to the discovery of some unexpected connections to apparently unrelated issues.
Really, should we ever be surprised at such discoveries? In a coherent world, how could anything fail to be connected to everything else, whether trivially or not? What is thought but an exploration of that network of connections?
This post then is mostly a recapitulation of the exploration I undertook with Ilion and my other correspondent. My thanks to them both.
What did the exploration unfold? “Language is an instrument of power, whether we want to think of it that way or not. E.g., I doubt you would say that the move from AD and BC to CE and BCE was innocent of political implication.” Ergo: Politically correct speech is a type of jizya, the head tax Muslims imposed on infidels under their power: Christians, Jews, &c.
Ilion responded to my inquiry about why we all started using “Muslim” instead of “Moslem:”
It is to “Otherize” our own historical culture and language — it is co-opt *you* into “Otherizing” your own historical culture and language, by making it appear more “educated” to say “moos’-leem” rather than “moz-lem”.
It’s for the same reason that we are now enjoined to say “bay-zhing”, rather than “pee-king” — neither pronunciation of which begins to capture how the Chinese say the name of that city.
It’s for the same reason that we constantly witness talking heads dramatically pronouncing Spanish-derived names with a not-quite-Spanish pronunciation — just so long as they make it emphatically clear that they are not using an American pronunciation.
Ah, I get it. Rather as if we were to call Germany “Deutschland” and Sweden “Sverige.”
When I used to be able to (haltingly) speak German, I always referred to ‘Germany’ as ‘Deutschland’ — when I was speaking German — and ‘Germany’ when I was speaking English. It would have been preposterous of me to say ‘Deutschland’ when speaking English; it would have been a foolish assertion of some sort of superiority over other English speakers.
But, when it comes tto saying/writing ‘Muslim’ and ‘Qur’an’, rather than ‘Moslem’ and ‘Koran’, the issue goes far deeper, and into dhimmitude. It is a serious issue; it’s not simply a stylistic issue.
This struck me rather forcefully. The kowtowing over language is profoundly abject, with foreheads smashed against the floor repeatedly. For, what could be more essential to a people than its language, which by its grammar, terms and usages conveys their whole philosophy and informs their every action? The language of a people expresses its logos. It is just this consideration that has driven the recent attempts to revive Flemish, Gaelic, and Welsh. It drove also the rebirth of Hebrew in Israel. These languages are being rebuilt as acts of political assertion by nations – by peoples with a common patrimony and birthright, and against all other nations. They are linguistic assertions of national existence, will, strength, determination not to be conquered.
Our eagerness to abandon our own traditional way of speaking about other nations and faiths in favor of what we take to be theirs bespeaks precisely the contrary – a will to self abnegation.
My other correspondent suggested independently that Muslims object to our use of “Mohammedanism” because, by way of a parallel with “Christianity,” it indicates that Muslims worship Mohammed, when that of course is anathema to them, and the very opposite of their basic doctrine.
Now this had never occurred to me. If true, it suggests to me that Muslims labor under a misapprehension about English usage. No English speaker would think that Nestorians worship Nestorius, or Arians Arius, or Zoroastrians Zoroaster. Judaism is not the worship of Judah. Christianity is the only sect that worships its eponymous founder.
Once upon a time we referred to the doctrines that originated with Mohammed by calling them Mohammedanism, just as we do with Confucianism and Manicheism. Now we call them Islam, “submission.” It is rather as if Muslims started calling Christianity by the English word “charity.”
If this were not about power, then all we should have to do is explain that we sometimes use the names of founders of sects in the terms thereof, and our interlocutors should then say, “Oh, I see; OK, no problem then.” But if they are not willing to do this, then their insistence that we change our parochial behavior to suit them, despite the fact that their objection to our customary practice makes no sense, is, precisely, an exercise of power. It is the linguistic equivalent of their insistence that we not walk our dogs in parks where they are enjoying themselves, or exercise our right of free speech by evangelizing on the street in the vicinity of their public gatherings, or install footbaths in all public restrooms. If this goes on, then at some point, logically, they will be insisting that our women wear the burka, so as not to offend their sensibilities. I mention this absurd result only to demonstrate the absurdity of the premise from which it sprang.
Try the thought experiment of putting the shoe on the other foot. How would the Muslims feel if we told them that “jihad” sounds to us as though it means only “spiritual work,” and has no connotation of actual warfare against the infidel, and then we insisted that they stop characterizing their martyrdom operations against us as “jihad”? They’d say – quite rightly – “who the Hell are you to tell us what an Arabic word means, or how we ought to use it?”
The question then becomes: ought we to understand our language as the Muslims wrongly understand it, just to coddle their feelings? If we do, we are effectually submitting to them, and the submission is a type of jizya.
The very same thing is proceeding, along a different vector, with the feminization of English. E.g., eliminating “waiter” and “chairman” in favor of “waitperson” and “chair,” bowdlerizing Scripture, rewriting poems and hymns, changing quotations of eminent thinkers, on and on. Why, the other day, listening in an odd moment to the Republican National Convention, I heard a speaker correct Edmund Burke – think of that, a Republican, correcting Burke! – by saying that, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing.”
Likewise, one of the best most beautiful lines in all hymnody, from Wesley’s Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, says of Christ that he was, “born to raise the Sons of Earth, born to give them Second Birth.” In the current Episcopal hymnal, these tremendously evocative, strong and majestic words have been corrected to read, “born to raise us from the Earth, born to give us Second Birth.” But while comfortably PC, the second version is theologically heterodox: Christ was not born to raise us from Earth to some superlunary sphere, but to raise man to a risen Earth. The PC version is gnostic. Hardly surprising, I suppose: PC itself is essentially gnostic.
In singing the PC version of the hymn, Christians betray Christianity. Most are innocent in doing so, and it is after all a small thing. But big things begin small.
If we let the Powers control the very manner of our speech about everyday things – e.g., the lovely habit of calling boats “she” – we give them everything. My example from the Hymnal shows that in surrendering speech, we surrender our patrimonial cult. What else is left to a culture, really, after that capitulation?
Let’s not capitulate. Let’s stick with the King’s English. It’s a tiny act of insurrection against Moloch. It’s so tiny, none of us will get in trouble for it. But it will keep the flame alive. It’s the very least we can do. And big things start small.
This is the best description of PC I’ve read, and aligns with my own observations regarding the current state of our language. It is, to be sure, an autochthonous linguistic decay, albeit with foreign influence as a frequent vector.
I think the PC cultural mentality really draws its strength and most of its fanatical adherents from the female population.
I remember first hearing “Muslim” from Malcolm X. Here’s something on the PC naming phenomenon:
I make sure I pronounce all baseball players who are named “Jesus X” (Latin Americans all) as “Jeezus X” not as “Hey Zeus X.”
“I wondered idly why the Powers decided that we ought to use “Muslim” in place of the traditional “Moslem.””
“Language is an instrument of power, whether we want to think of it that way or not. E.g., I doubt you would say that the move from AD and BC to CE and BCE was innocent of political implication.”
Just so. Those who can control what you will say can control, to a large extent, what you will, and can, think. If they can get you to self-censor, then they can control you close to absolutely.
“My other correspondent suggested independently that Muslims object to our use of “Mohammedanism” because, by way of a parallel with “Christianity,” it indicates that Muslims worship Mohammed, when that of course is anathema to them, and the very opposite of their basic doctrine.”
Concerning the use of ‘Muslim’ and ‘Qur’an’ (which PC usage I mock as “Q’u’r’a’n”), rather than ‘Moslem’ and ‘Koran’, I suspect that Moslems don’t really care. Whether it’s because nearly everyone has adopted the leftist-PC usage, and thus one rarely sees the older usage any more, and thus they haven’t noticed that they could get some mileage out of being “offended” by it, or whether they wouldn’t care even if ‘Moslem’ and ‘Koran’ were still as commonly used as in my youth, I have no opinion.
Concerning ‘Mohammedanism’ and the idea that that term indicates that Muslims worship Mohammed, when that of course is anathema to them, and the very opposite of their basic doctrine” — interestingly enough, if one pays attention to Moslems’ words and behavior, one starts to see that they really do worship ol’ Mo, and that he is more important to them than that demon Allah is … and that they worship Mo in ways that Christians would consider insane of someone claiming to worship Christ.
For instance, what do Moslem call any criticism of Mo? They call it blasphemy. Can one blaspheme against Moses or John the Baptist or Paul? Of course not, blasphemy applies only to objects of worship.
And, consider Moslems’ strange (and insane!) interest in certain details of Mo’s life, such as how he voided and evacuated, and which way he faced doing these two necessary tasks, and his sexual proclivities. We Christians openly worship Jesus the Christ as God, but we haven’t the faintest interest in his toilet habits nor his erections, and we would consider anyone trying to make moral significance of the same to be insane.
“The question then becomes: ought we to understand our language as the Muslims wrongly understand it, just to coddle their feelings? If we do, we are effectually submitting to them, and the submission is a type of jizya.”
This is an important point, of course. At the same time, we should not forget that the real existential threat to our civilization and our national cultures isn’t Islam — Islam is brittle — it is our own home-grown leftists, it is those of our own peoples who hate us, and work for the destruction of our nations.
The example of Muhammad is meant to be a complete one, or as complete as it can be, encompassing elements of individual and communal life. By following even personal hygiene rules that are proscribed, we ritualize every moment of our existence. When the body worships, the heart and mind cannot escape. Strange it may seem, but insane? Are these such shameful acts that this level of interest in them would be insanity? Do you not void or evacuate? It is moral to Muslims within the realms of authority and (ritual) purity, but that’s about it. There is no fetishization if that is the implication.
As for “Mohammadanism”, personally I don’t think there’s any issue other than the religion’s proper name being Islam. But hey, if it is your tradition and your language and psyche are being encroached on by insistence against its use then I can sympathize. This sounds a bit like Marxist critical theory of language to me as an outsider. I would have thought it a question of courtesy more than anything else. Now courtesy is not owed certainly, but history and traditions are replete with examples of great men who have been courteous even to mortal enemies.
“The very same thing is proceeding, along a different vector, with the feminization of English. E.g., eliminating “waiter” and “chairman” in favor of “waitperson” and “chair,” bowdlerizing Scripture, rewriting poems and hymns, changing quotations of eminent thinkers, on and on. …”
And the thing is, most of that’s being done by (if I may use the term) men. Sure, women who are consciously and militantly feminist do it, but most who do so are male … including (so-called) men who imagine that they are conservative. For instance, the use of ‘she’ where English requires ‘he’ is an act of leftist-and-feminist PC-vandalism; to use ‘she’ when the language requires ‘he’ is an act of leftist politics — and one can find any number of self-identifying conservative men doing it. They also tend to get very defensive, and to resort to blatantly intellectually dishonest defenses, when one calls them on it.
Ilion has it right about Mohammedanism. Most are happy to style themseves “Sunni”, i.e. followers of Mo. and of course most treat pictorial representations of the man the way Jews avoid the names of G-d. Ultimately i think Moslems oppose “mohammedanism” because it is Western usage AND because their religion is gnostic – following the perfect man to rebuild a fallen creation – but theologically confused.
I am glad to say that the lady Chairman of the orgaisation for which I work always corrects anyone who refers to her as the “Chair”. She also makes iit clear that she is a Miss, not a Ms.
Two other points. I have noticed that in the Spanish-speaking country where I work, the traditional “Damas y Caballeros” (Ladies and Gentlemen) at the beginning of a speech or an annoucement is increasingly being replaced with the more socialistic “Señoras y Señores” (Mrses and Misters). This would appear to be part of the same process.
And in Britain an increasing number of public loos are now being labelled not Ladies or Gentlemen – nor even Men or Women – but “Male” and “Female”, thereby reducing human beings to the level of brute beasts.
It’s foolish to call self-abnegating speech “jizya”, which very specifically refers to a transfer of wealth to the Islamic state from the false religions sharia commands it to tolerate.
The actual interesting point about such speech isn’t even Islam specifically. It’s which groups Anglos are expected to kowtow to and which we’re not. European examples like “Deutsch” are obvious, but I’ve always been fascinated by how Indians “count as white” for PC purposes. No one says “Hindustan” when speaking English. There’s even the phenomenon of alienated Indians who call themselves “South Asian” to abnegate their Hinduness in favor of a term that includes the more prestigious Moslems.
I think that the point is that Jizya is opression, you are forced to do something which discriminates against you, in this case pay more taxes. Similarly PC speach is forced. You cannot easily get out of it or you are faced with persecution and labeled a fanatic. So even if you don’t believe in liberalism you might be forced to bow and pay homage to it via your speach. So it is a tax: But instead of paying with money you pay with your honor. Another similarity: by refusing to pay Jizya you are fighting tirany and surely will face a backslash from mohammedists. By refusing to be PC you are fighting tirany and will surely face a backslash from liberals.
“It’s foolish to call self-abnegating speech “jizya”, which very specifically refers …”
Call it ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, then.
Stockholm Syndrome and the internalization of dhimmitude are two expressions of the same mental state.
“The actual interesting point about such speech isn’t even Islam specifically.”
Indeed. It’s leftism, which is home-grown.
Every time we pause in order to correct our speech before we speak – as when, about to say, “our men in uniform,” we put on the brakes to insert “and women” – it is a mental tax, and our PC utterance an outward sign of our inward submission to the Powers.
True, it is not a tax collected in the coin of currency. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a real economic cost. And the deformation of outward speech deforms society, imposing real economic costs, and moral costs – two ways of denoting the same thing – upon it. When for example it becomes routine to *say* “our men and women in uniform,” the impetus to prevent women from service in uniform, and by extension in combat, is vitiated, and eventually extinguished – outwardly, at least, and legally. The result is women killed and mutilated in combat.
If we refuse to speak in this way, we resist. It is almost as subversive as wearing a coat and tie to the office.
“It is almost as subversive as wearing a coat and tie to the office.”
While I am wearing a tie today, let’s not get radical!
You wear a tie without a jacket? What are you, a fast-food restaurant manager? 😉
But seriously, part of why I wear a jacket and tie to work, every day, even on what we might call “non-client” days, is because it is both traditional and, in light of current trends, subversive.
“I have noticed that in the Spanish-speaking country where I work, the traditional “Damas y Caballeros” (Ladies and Gentlemen) at the beginning of a speech or an annoucement is increasingly being replaced with the more socialistic “Señoras y Señores” (Mrses and Misters).”
That *could* be more along the lines of republicanism crossed with egalarianism, whcih isn’t necessarily the same as socialistic.
“And in Britain an increasing number of public loos are now being labelled not Ladies or Gentlemen – nor even Men or Women – but “Male” and “Female”, thereby reducing human beings to the level of brute beasts.”
Indeed. The salient fact about me is not that I am male, but that I am a man.
I suspect that (in America, at least) the wide-spread habit of referring to oneself as ‘male’, rather than as ‘a man’, has its roots in the same “Baby Boomer” habit of correcting someone who refers to one as “Mr So-and-So” by saying “Mr So-and-So is my father; I’m John” — that is, in the refusal to grow up and be an adult.
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wow – mental tax – I had not seen PC as a tax on mental capital that could otherwise be used to acquire a mind of my own. I have long found PC ‘mentally taxing’, but until now lacked the notion of ‘mental taxation’. Thank you, Mr Kristor.
“A tax on mental capital that could otherwise be used” – that part I had already well understood when I wrote this post. But I had not considered “to acquire a mind of my own.” Yes: exactly so. Great insight. We kowtow inwardly, inserting into our everyday speech the necessary obeisances to PC shibboleths. Their routine outward expression results sooner or later in a vitiation of our outward customs and laws. But also – you are totally right about this – that outward deformation feeds back into us, so that we are eventually inwardly deformed, and begin to feel that it is wicked to do such things as, e.g., spare women the horrors of combat.
“… that outward deformation feeds back into us, so that we are eventually inwardly deformed, and begin to feel that it is wicked to do such things as, e.g., spare women the horrors of combat.”
… or to openly admit that women have no place in the mititary, or the police and fire departments, or as coal miners (as if there are any) and similar high-danger and/or high-strength occupations, and that it is wicked to allow any woman into these ranks.
… or to openly admit that it is as wicked to demand women be admitted to a private all-male society/organization as to demand that men be admitted to a private all-female society/organization.
Muslim/Moslem and Koran/Qu’ran are just orthographical variants created by the difficulty of transliterating Arabic into English. It’s the same reason you see the former Libyan dictator’s name spelled as Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Kaddafi, etc. It has absolutely nothing to do with PC.
Make it a deliberate and obvious habit to use ‘Moslem’ and ‘Koran’ whilst “liberals” and leftists are about, and you’ll see just how absolutely nothing to do with PC it is.
… and, better yet, refer to Moslems as ‘Slaves of Allah’ and refer Islam as ‘Mohammedanism’
from ‘Sand in the Gears:’ Honoring Muhammad
Douglas Wilson: Reading the Kid on the Floor (concerning “gender inclusive” language)
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This is a part of what I have posted on another blog:
While I’m used to saying “Islam” and “muslim”, there is no real good reason why we stopped calling them “moslem”, it really was just PC stupidity. Today, at least in some places, you get sneers for using those old terms. For the love of God, I’ve even seen history teachers correct old manuscripts and their authors for using them! How silly is that?!
As for the B.C.E/C.E. vs B.C/A.D., no contest it’s B.C./A.D., that is the western heritage and how we tell time. That BCE/CE thing is a mixed bag. It was never meant to be a way to secularize time itself. BCE/CE is old dating back to the “dark ages” I believe, but what it meant was “Before Christian Era” “Christian Era”, not “Before Common Era” “Common Era”. Later Christians would some times use CE as “Common Era”, but again it was a reference to the “Christian Era”. It was only in the 20th century, that BCE/CE started to get favored over BC/AD, and it was a BCE/CE used as “Common Era” purposely as a means of secularization, i.e. it’s bogus. In truth, either way refers to Christ and the Christian era, but thanks to the PC police we have it used as a weapon against us.
What I wonder is where was the fight in old Christendom when the secularists came chanting their mantras and waving their flags? All the damage they’ve done, *sigh*. I can’t imagine the medievals just sitting on their thumbs while all this insanity was going on; there’d be war, and holy war at that! It just seems to me that modern Christians were born with little fight in them. A shame, a real shame.
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This is an excellent explanation of how language is co-opted to change a culture.
I’ve made a similar point many times about the use of the word ‘gender’ that has been foisted upon us by the proprietors of identity politics and those who would sow the seeds of chaos and confusion. The correct term is sex, which is biologically determined at conception; gender implies fluidity and self-determination and is properly a grammatical term.
Language does matter and it does seem that the more we have sex-neutralised the language, the more confused about roles people have become. What used to be normal (i.e. traditional) is now shocking to ‘polite’ (i.e. PC) society.
I noticed this trend in the 80s when the VOA started referring to its Persian Language service as Farsi. I was thinking out loud about why they would do this, and some strange woman said, “It’s Farsi. The language is called Farsi.” I said, “Yes. In Persian, I suppose it is.”
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