How About Isten?

I can’t get too excited about a Dutch bishop’s suggestion that Christians start referring to God as Allah to “ease relations”. I wonder if the Dutch have an equivalent to the English proverb “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell”? Professor Bainbridge has it about right—the bishop is Roman Catholic and Benedict XVI probably won’t be amused with the idea.

I’m beginning to think Wilhelm Grimm (yes, of the Brothers) was right: Hungarian should be the international language. It’s quite regular, doesn’t have any difficult sounds, is easy to learn to speak, read, and write, and doesn’t have a lot of native speakers.

How about Isten?

7 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    The odd part was the Bishop’s prediction that the Netherlands would become a majority Muslim country. Perhaps, but not exactly a message of confidence about your faith. And not a message that is likely to ease tensions.

  • I don’t see what the big deal is. “Allah” is simply the arabic word for God. It’s no different, really, than any other language.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Or how about Jehovah/Yahweh if this is all about a shared monotheistic heritage? No, its about the prospect of Muslim dominance and the Bishop is choosing the path of subservience. It’s like trying to calm U.S. immigration fears by encouraging Americans to speak Spanish.

  • Mate, I hate to say it, but I think you completely misunderstood the silly Catholic’s observation. In Indonesia a typical name for God is Allah, of course, because of absorption from Arabic. I read the statement as being a simple “God, Allah, bollocks”

    (Why the Pope would be irritated about the word Allah escapes me as millions of Arabic speaking Catholics use the word daily….)

  • I understand that, Lounsbury. I also think it’s perfectly reasonable for Arabic speakers to say “Allah”, for Aramaic speakers to say “Elah”, for Chinese speakers to say ”Tian”, for French speakers to say “Dieu”, and so on.

    I’ve tended to find it a little off-putting and pretentious when white English speakers referred to God as “the Great Spirit” or “Manitou” (and, believe me, I’ve heard it).

    I was merely suggesting somewhat bemusedly (and following linguist Wilhelm Grimm) that Isten would be a good pick for universal usage.

  • Well, I can’t disagree with that, it’s… idiotic really. Well, unless archly ironic.

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