A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, March 8, 2010

More Camel Ephemera (and Links to Camel Cheesecake)

I'm sorry, it's like an entry drug leading you on to the harder stuff. Once you start posting occasionally about camel beauty contests, your readers get hooked and start sending you still more camel cheesecake.

Since my readers seem to like this stuff, enjoy Hakima at the link. (Safe for work unless your boss is a camel.)

It also reminds me of the fact that one of this country's finest Middle East Specialists, Richard W. Bulliet, of Columbia and former head of their Middle East Institute (not to be confused with the one I work for), author of the scholarly study The Camel and the Wheel, which I still consider a landmark work of history and anthropology, once wrote, under a pen name, a mystery novel (which I sadly have never read) called Kicked to Death By a Camel. Since Dick lists it on his online CV I assume he won't mind my noting the fact.

And of course every first year Arabic student hears the old saw that every Arabic root has four meanings: 1) its normal meaning; 2) the exact opposite of its normal meaning; 3) a meaning relating to sex; and 4) a meaning relating to camels. It's an exaggeration, but not completely off base. Once while trying to decipher a medieval text for my doctoral dissertation, I found the root I was looking up had, among its many meanings, "crack in the skin under the armpit of a camel."

Beat that, you proverbial Eskimos with your alleged (insert large number here) words for snow.


Anonymous said...

The snowclone team over at Language Log would be happy to disabuse anyone of the notion that Eskimos have $BIGNUM words for snow, or even that this would say anything meaningful about their language if they did.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

In fact, I had them in mind when I wrote it.