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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our Debt To Arabic

posted by on September 26 at 9:00 AM

The most that we owe to the language of Arabs is for the word “zero”:

zero 1604, from It. zero, from M.L. zephirum, from Arabic sifr “cipher,” translation of Skt. sunya-m “empty place, desert, naught” (see cipher). A brief history of the invention of “zero” can be found here. Meaning “worthless person” is recorded from 1813. The verb zero in is 1944, from the noun, on the notion of instrument adjustments. Zero tolerance first recorded 1972, originally U.S. political language.

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I thought it would have been Algebra but that is probably just the Middle East in general. That and preserving the Classics while the West was stuck in Christian Fundamentalist mode.

Posted by Suck it Jesus, Mohammed and Moses | September 26, 2007 9:14 AM

The contribution of Arabic as a language is truly misunderstood in the west. Part of the beauty and construction of Islamic life is centered around language.

Posted by Lawrence Molloy | September 26, 2007 9:19 AM

Alcohol, anyone?

Posted by M'thew | September 26, 2007 9:48 AM

This morning, while I was sitting on the divan, drinking my coffee spiked with alcohol, as my giraffe and gazelle grazed on alfalfa, I worked on an algebraic algorithm to calculate the phases of the moon for my new almanac. Having finished my elixir, I popped an apricot in my mouth, wiped my lips with a piece of cotton gauze, and leafed through a magazine.

Suddenly the rain began to beat on the roof. "The monsoon!" I thought. Fishing for albacore with the admiral would be too hazardous. I should sip a sugary sorbet on the sofa and lacquer my racket, instead.

Posted by aubergine arsenal | September 26, 2007 9:57 AM

(: صفر جميلة

Posted by Chris | September 26, 2007 9:59 AM

Technically, we owe this to India, as the concept came from Sanskrit, but was passed on by Arabic.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 26, 2007 10:04 AM

The only thing we owe India is bombs.

Posted by WAR LOL | September 26, 2007 10:12 AM

@6 I think Charles was talking about the word zero, not the concept.

Posted by ka chunk | September 26, 2007 10:17 AM

I think the problems our times are a bit more complicated than a lack of blowjobs given to people who today speak a language that has some words that have been made a part of other languages.

Posted by elenchos | September 26, 2007 10:17 AM

On the greater topic of borrowing:

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." - James D. Nicoll

Posted by QuimbyMcF | September 26, 2007 10:22 AM


I was left feeling incomplete when your story did not end with a surprise assassin.

Posted by Mike | September 26, 2007 10:35 AM


LOL! So true. That is an awesome quote!

Posted by Toby | September 26, 2007 10:48 AM

well scripted, you past the test (ne' Berber)

Posted by Lawrence Molloy | September 26, 2007 10:59 AM

@7 - no, you mean Saudi Arabia. We owe them bombs. The US, thru Bush, already pardoned India for building nukes, in one of the dumbest moves ever - and why Iran can now easily demand they have nukes just as we permitted/pardoned both India and Pakistan to have nukes.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 26, 2007 11:54 AM

That makes sense then, that a cypher in hip hop slang means a circle of freestylers being that zero is a circle. Right?

Posted by mongo like slog | September 26, 2007 12:49 PM

Exactly right, No. 6.

Even then, they knew that you cannot reach the tech support desk without the "O".

Posted by NapoleonXIV | September 26, 2007 12:55 PM

The Arabs gave the world zero. That's about it. Compared to the contribution of the Jews which is revealed in Judaism, Islam is a child's finger painting.

Just look at The Stranger, how many Jewish writers contribute compared to Islamic writers? Why? Because Islam is a religion for idiots. What can compare to The New York Times? There's no Arab paper even close. That proves Judaism is the true religion and Islam creates fascists, just like Christianity creates perverts.

Posted by Issur | September 26, 2007 6:59 PM

Can be found here usually implies a link, even when quoted.

Posted by Johnnie | September 26, 2007 9:40 PM

For the first time, Issur came close to being funny.

Posted by charles | September 27, 2007 9:16 AM
Early symbol for zero:  0
Modern symbol for zero: W
Posted by butterw | September 27, 2007 10:30 AM

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