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  1. #1
    Registered User bzzfft's Avatar
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    Lightbulb There's a Lot of Arabic in Dune

    I'm reading Dune for the first time and just thought I'd share how many Arabic words there are in here, and how they're sometimes spot on and sometimes... Kull wahad! One of them's an eery prediction: bashar is a high military rank. Creepy, no?

    Kull wahad, the Reverend Mother's favorite exclamation of surprise, means every one. Or eat one.

    "And she says: 'Tell me about the waters of your homeland, Usul.' "

    It's unclear whether Usul is another name for Paul, or his homeland, but I'm leaning towards the homeland because while Usul is Fremen for the base of the pillar, it's Arabic for origins.


    "When you live upon Arrakis," she had said, "khala, the land is empty. The moons will be your friends, the sun your enemy.

    Now the glossary defines khala as a traditional invocation to still the angry spirits of a place whose name you mention... But it was better before I saw that. "Khala, the land is empty." Because"khala" means "emptiness." I suppose a related tidbit is that the khala can make some people apprehensive because that's where jinn are, but then we would say a prayer. People in the Duneverse would say "emptiness." Comforting.





    Less Interesting Ones?

    [Yueh gives Paul his Orange Catholic bible.] "Open it to four-sixty-seven Kalima—where it says 'from water does all life begin.'

    Kalima
    means word. "And we created from water everything living" is a line in the Quran, but I suppose it could also be in the bible.


    The prophetic legends had taken on Arrakis even to the extent of adopted labels (including Revered Mother, canto and respondu, and most of the Shari-a panoplia propheticus).

    Shari-a
    , "that part of the panoplia propheticus which sets forth the superstitious ritual," is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Odd, to see it here.




    Alia is an Arabic girl's name. And the glossary is just littered with them, mostly Fremen terms, meanings sometimes changed. I haven't gotten to the part where we land on Dune, yet, and I'm not sure how I feel about getting there. It was interesting at first, to see hints of Arabic, but now it feels like a huge cop-out. Herbert didn't just borrow influences, he just took the whole language. Dune isn't a whole new world, it's a stolen version of my own, down to the abaya. I can't wait to see what monstrosities he's done with my culture.
    Last edited by bzzfft; September 18th, 2013 at 09:57 AM.

  2. #2
    i remember trying to read dune but never really getting into it. i should try it out again one of these days ...

  3. #3
    Orthodox Herbertian Omphalos's Avatar
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    You may find this site interesting:

    http://baheyeldin.com/literature/ara...erts-dune.html

    And this:

    http://www.usul.net/books/sounds.htm

    And this, for other linguistic influences on Herbert:

    http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003126.php

    Lots more here on linguistics too:

    http://tau.solahpmo.com/viewtopic.php?f=869&t=4
    Last edited by Omphalos; September 24th, 2013 at 02:04 AM. Reason: iPad tomfoolery

  4. #4
    Let me be your gateway Chekhov's Avatar
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    I don't mean to be pedantic, but isn't this well-known? Or maybe it's just because of my abortive attempt to learn Arabic as a teenager. I swear Wikipedia has/had a glossary of Semitic words used in Dune though. (Most are Arabic but a few aren't; for example, "Bene Gesserit" looks like Hebrew to me.)

  5. #5
    Registered User bzzfft's Avatar
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    I did a quick Google search before posting this, but I guess I'm a little bit of a moron or something because I didn't find anything (at first)... Thanks for the links, Omphalos. So I thought I made an O-M-G discovery and was going to be crowned queen of understanding words from my own language.

    Why were you learning Arabic as a teenager, Chekov? If I may ask.
    Last edited by bzzfft; December 22nd, 2013 at 01:50 AM.

  6. #6
    Let me be your gateway Chekhov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bzzfft View Post
    I did a quick Google search before posting this, but I guess I'm a little bit of a moron or something because I didn't find anything (at first)... So I thought I made an O-M-G discovery and was going to be crowned queen of understanding words from my own language.
    Nah. Maybe not everyone who reads Dune picks up on it, but some have. Also, I only noticed now that your location is Jeddah.
    Why were you learning Arabic as a teenager, Chekov? If I may ask.
    I've learned lots of languages before. Arabic just interested me because it was so different and I've always liked the Middle East.

  7. #7
    Registered User bzzfft's Avatar
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    LOL no, I picked up on it right away. I'm Arab, silly. I meant I didn't find anything, like articles, about it (though I see now that there are posts aplenty.)

  8. #8
    Let me be your gateway Chekhov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bzzfft View Post
    LOL no, I picked up on it right away. I'm Arab, silly. I meant I didn't find anything, like articles, about it (though I see now that there are posts aplenty.)
    Yeah, I know you are. I just said "I noticed your location is Jeddah". That's in Saudi Arabia, isn't it?

    What I meant was that all the Middle Eastern influences in Dune aren't obvious to everyone who reads it, but enough people have picked up on them that they have made glossaries of where the terms come from and what they mean, which you can find if you do a little digging on Google.

  9. #9
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    Thanks Bzzfft

    Quote Originally Posted by bzzfft View Post
    I did a quick Google search before posting this, but I guess I'm a little bit of a moron or something because I didn't find anything (at first)... Thanks for the links, Omphalos. So I thought I made an O-M-G discovery and was going to be crowned queen of understanding words from my own language.

    Why were you learning Arabic as a teenager, Chekov? If I may ask.
    Bzzfft-- I appreciated your comments. No harm in seeing someone make those observations about Dune. Also, I appreciate the links others offered. I read Dune many years ago and still today am amazed at the parallels in the story to the history of the middle east today.

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