July 10, 2005

The lethal laugher

Lameen Souag at Jabal al-Lughat has posted a fascinating analysis of the language of the (Arabic) web forum post claiming responsibility for the London bombings, starting with this:

The first interesting thing about this statement is the bizarre phrasing of its opening: والصلاة والسلام على الضحوك القتال سيدنا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم. The Guardian renders this as "may peace be upon the cheerful one and undaunted fighter, Prophet Muhammad, God's peace be upon him." The doubling of "peace be upon him" (a formula added to the prophet's name as a matter of course) is unusual [because of its redundancy] and stylistically flawed, suggesting an imperfect command of Arabic literary style. The phrase الضحوك القتال (ad-Ḍaḥûk al-Qattâl), rendered by the Guardian as "the cheerful one and undaunted fighter", is composed of two words in apposition which Hans Wehr's dictionary renders as "frequently, or constantly, laughing; laugher" and "murderous, deadly, lethal". This extremely unusual epithet is so weird that at first sight I assumed it must be some kind of prank; it may potentially provide some clues to the identity of the killers.

Other LL posts on analyses and translations of the same message here and here.

Update: and also see Tony Badran's analysis of the associations of the references to "heroes" and "arabism", which disagrees with the conclusions of Juan Cole and Shibli Zaman, to whom Lameen links.

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 10, 2005 07:15 AM