Friday, May 15, 2015

Humantiy (for Humanity)

On May 15, 1925, Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, general secretary of the Lebanese People's Party, released a communist newspaper called الإنسانية (Al-Insaniyyah) in Syria and Lebanon. It was named after the French communist paper l'Humanité. A friend notes that it "seems almost meaningful" how the transliteration of the Arabic word for "humanity" is so like our English word insanity. I noticed this too, of course, and replied that I was tempted to make a mild joke of it somehow. Something about it reminding me of the Weird Mr. Yankovic, perhaps, or even Crazy Eddie, who would pretend to be a real mensch (his prices were IN-SA-A-A-A-A-ANE!), but was really anything but. However, I may be trying to divine too much humor from "humanity." The rabble-rousing rag lasted for just five issues before it was shut down by French authorities on June 6 and its editors and other party members arrested. Yazbak escaped to France, where apparently the natives were preferable to the colonialists who were then ruling his homeland. The French and the Arabs (who currently constitute the second largest ethnic group in that country) continue to have a fraught relationship, as can be attested to by various flashpoints ranging from the debate over Muslim head scarves to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. There were zero examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and ten of them in WorldCat.

(Al-Insaniyyah masthead, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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