Monday, October 23, 2006

The Irony of Names

The insistence of the the Islamic government of Iran to name the streets of the cities after Islamic figures sometimes causes ridiculous situations in which not only no one uses the name, but many cannot even pronounce it! Probably the most interesting one is the "Hojr ebn Oday" street in Tehran. Almost no one uses this name to call the street (it is very strange to many people), few people know who this Hojr has been or even know how they should pronounce the name (because in Persian, short vowels are not ordinarily written), and more ironic than that is that it seems that even the city officials, at least those in charge of the signs at the beginning of the streets, don't know what this name is all about, because the signs are inconsistant (in their English section where the pronunciation is clearer) and almost all of them are incorrect! If you take a look at the picture I've taken, you see that it reads "Hajar ebn Oday" and I've even seen some places where the signs read "Hajar ebn Adi", while Hajar in Arabic means "stone" and I don't think even Arabs call themselves stone!

The people of the area call the street "Tir andaz" (which means "the archer"). In fact, the street was originally called "Arash-e Tir andaz" (Arash The Archer) in honor of Arash the great Iranian legend (the same one I had two posts about) and was later renamed after the Islamic revolution. And who is Hojr? Hojr ebn-Oday (Hojr son of Oday) was one of the close followers of Ali (Mohammad's cousin and son-in-law) who was killed by the order of Mo'avieh the Omavi caliph. But no matter who he is, the important fact is Hojr does not exist for the average Iranian and really few people know about him or care about him (and the fact that I do know about him proves that I am not an average Iranian! :) ). Of course, due to the government's deliberate neglecting of Arash's story in the media and at schools, even a great legend such as Arash is getting overlooked by the average Iranian, but I think still there are more people who know Arash and almost all who know him surely respect him, while this is not true about Hojr, that is clear by the naming issue I mentioned, and many other figures whose names (or their erroneous name!) pose on the street signs.


Jeremiah said...
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Jeremiah said...

Interesting post. It sounds like the typical b.s. you can expect from any government. Anyway, Arabs might not call themselves "stone," but Norwegians do. Stein (stone) is a name in Norway. My wife's uncle is named Stein. There are also many variations of the name in Norway, such as Torstein (Thor Stone) and Halstein (either Half Stone or Rock Stone).