My friend The Liberal Avenger alerted me to this story, which seems to be making ripples in the blogosphere. It seems that Burger King (in the UK) has recalled some prepackaged ice cream cones, because the swirly-confection picture on the label looks a lot like the Arabic word allah, and people were complaining about this.
The canonical image you will find on the Internet, which features the ice-cream-cone label helpfully juxtaposed with that Arabic word, seems to have originated at the Sun. Have a look:
What do you think, readers? To me, the resemblance is indeed striking. Yes, the swirly cone on the label, when rotated 90 degrees to the left, the way it is in that picture, really does say Allah.
There are four letters in the word allah as it’s written: alif, laam, laam (again, with a shaddah on top), and haa’. Here are those four letters, all by themselves (remember, Arabic is written right-to-left, so the first letter is the rightmost one):
أ ل ل ه
Arabic is always written in what we’d call “cursive” style. Some of the letters have special rules about whether they can be directly attached to the letters that come before or after them. Here’s what the word allah looks like:
There should be a shaddah on top of the second laam (the shaddah is a diacritical mark which indicates that the letter it sits on top of is doubled), with what’s called a “defective alif” on top of that. You’re just going to have to take my word for it here, readers. See the picture on the right, with the word allah embossed on that golden seal or signet or whatever it is? That’s got the shaddah and the “defective alif.”
The other diacritical marks on the signet? From right to left, we’ve got (1) a fatHa, which represents the short vowel “a,” (2) the shaddah/defective alif I just mentioned, and finally (3) a dhamma, which represents the short vowel “u.” In most printed works, the short vowels are omitted (the admirable regularity of Arabic morphology and syntax makes the vowel patterns predictable, believe it or not).
That makes the word on the signet, technically, allahu, or “God [DEF, NOM]” (i.e. the noun is marked for definiteness and nominative case).
Now, on the ice-cream label, the initial “letter” alif is connected to the laam which follows it. In “real life,” the letter alif in “initial” or “medial” position doesn’t get connected to the letter that follows it, so it’s “wrong” in that respect. I cannot claim any kind of authority on Arabic calligraphy, but I believe that this would not be considered a show-stopper if you were trying to write in a fancy style.
Does any of this matter? Should the cones have been banned? Is this another example of the liberal, cowardly West succumbing to “dhimmitude”? Please judge for yourselves, readers. This post is filed under the rubric “Language,” not “Political.” But for what it’s worth, that BK ice-cream cone really does say “Allah.”
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September 19th, 2005 @ 22:59
Finally some real answers!
September 20th, 2005 @ 19:50
If you’re interested in the etymology of “dhimmitude,” see this earlier post from the archives.
October 8th, 2005 @ 12:08
What are you? Fucking nuts! While there is an uncanny resemblance it only comes in the general dessending shape. If you look closely the fronds are bend in an alternate direction and I know for a fact the basic shape of a letter is important, not to mention the but of the letter isn’t reflected. This doesn’t even classify on the same level as Engrish!
October 8th, 2005 @ 14:17
I’m “fucking nuts,” even though “there is an uncanny resemblance”?
How do you figure, cowboy?
What is a “frond” and how is it “bend [sic] in an alternate direction”?
I’m impressed with your knowledge of the “fact the basic shape of a letter is important.” Is that what you’d call an “uncanny resemblance,” maybe?
What is “the but of the letter” and how might it be, or not be, “reflected”?
Guess what I think? I think you don’t have the slightest idea what the fuck you’re talking about. Thanks for dropping by, though.
October 24th, 2005 @ 23:35
Well, having studied Arabic for the past year and a half, and having memorized the fatha in Arabic, and being a new student of Islamic fundamentalism (from a SCHOLARLY perspective, not an ideological one), I would like to say this:
The resemblance is uncanny.
And, although I see the shape of the soft-serve ice cream pile (or doggy doo pile) in that brown image, the only reason it looks more like ice cream than the image of Allah in Arabic is that it’s on an ice cream cone. If it were on the Quran, nobody would be saying “hey, that looks like a pile of soft serve ice cream!”
By the way, if you ever hear anyone scream “Allah akbar!”, dive for cover.
December 14th, 2005 @ 08:55
Litlle by little Islam is swalling the judeo/christian
civilisation. World is slepping, Islam is fuking and get more and more people where once then will come asking
of what they want to own, and then it will be too late.
Is is not too late actually ??
December 14th, 2005 @ 18:56
Unécoeuré: Vous êtes complètement fou.
October 27th, 2007 @ 17:33
So would anyone have a problem if it instead sort of kinda looked like the word “Jesus” or if it looked like any Christian religious icon?