Inshallah
December 7, 2007 3:51 PM   Subscribe

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have endured tours of duty in Iraq. They are returning home with a new word on their lips. It will have an impact on the American Experiment, inshallah."
posted by Firas (52 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, I know any bit of sociological generalization gets really irritating, but I just found it a fun read.
posted by Firas at 3:55 PM on December 7, 2007


I love it when articles like this can't make it past the byline without a typo.
posted by phaedon at 4:09 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I doubt it, to be honest. I don't think there are enough Americans over there to create this sort of socio-cultural-psychological impact in America. Additionally, war makes people fatalistic (especially after a while) and drowns out that "can-do" attitude - especially when initial attitudes were so gung-ho at the start. I'm sure loads of Americans in WWII, weary with battle, weren't shy with their "God willing." Safe at home, that feeling ends quickly.

The ridiculous typo in the title only enhances my feeling that this article was somewhat tossed-off and puffed-up to look more meaningful than it is.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:15 PM on December 7, 2007


I tell yew whut, buddy, if'n inny ah our boys cummin' back frum I-raq start in with inny uh that "in-sha-la-dee-dah" round my nayberhood they gunna git they ass kicked!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:19 PM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


it might catch on, lord willin' and the creek don't rise ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:21 PM on December 7, 2007 [9 favorites]


And them college boys over at the gaht-damn Scholars Ree-view oughtta learn 'em sum spellin', gaht dammit! Ain't no Ls in "of", last time I checked!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 PM on December 7, 2007


Inshalla, you know, whatever.
posted by humannaire at 4:24 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


For posterity (I reckon they'll get around to fixing it, god willing), here's the delicious typo:

...a new sense
lof our own limitations
.

You gotta admit, that's perfect.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:25 PM on December 7, 2007


I dunno. I've been wrong about these things before, but I thought it was perfect. On the other hand I can see how a goal oriented individual might have problems with both the message and the delivery.
posted by Huplescat at 4:37 PM on December 7, 2007


I thought I heard Petraeus use this at the end of a sentence, yesterday or this morning, on NPR. From him it sounded to me as if he was looking for a little local street cred. Very interesting to read here that this phrase has become common among the troops.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 4:38 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This too shall pass.

nods.
posted by boo_radley at 4:42 PM on December 7, 2007


lol our own limitations?

Seriously though, it is odd that Petraeus et al would be using this word without realizing it could (apparently) be interpreted as not likely anytime soon.
posted by finite at 4:43 PM on December 7, 2007


Where do I go to join the ranks of the Historical Analogy Police?
posted by Kattullus at 4:55 PM on December 7, 2007


The word does have a sort of common ironic sense, but it's littered through the language of Muslim (and I guess non-Muslim Arabic) speakers. Sometimes almost every prediction of the future is punctuated with "inshallah". So it's not necessarily always an unhelpful term.
posted by Firas at 4:56 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


It just means "God willing." which is not an uncommon phrase in English. "Knock on wood" seems to be a bit similar as well.
posted by empath at 5:01 PM on December 7, 2007


I do wonder what of Arabic culture and language will filter back into the west after this particular crusade-- food, music, fashion, language? Is anybody noticing anything yet? Or have we already integrated so much through integration that there isn't much left. I don't think insallah is going to be one for the ages, since, as I said, we already have similar locutions available.
posted by empath at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2007


integrated so much through IMMIGRATION, i meant to say.
posted by empath at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2007


Going back a bit, but my favourite loanword/concept from the Allied occupation of Germany is bratwurst. Time has shown us it had a profound effect on our arteries.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:07 PM on December 7, 2007


Lemme try it out:

Our soldiers will soon get out of that damned country, and we hold this administration accountable, inshallah.

Hmm, I kinda like the way that feels.
posted by quin at 5:08 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do wonder what of Arabic culture and language will filter back into the west after this particular crusade-- food, music, fashion, language? Is anybody noticing anything yet? Or have we already integrated so much through integration that there isn't much left. I don't think insallah is going to be one for the ages, since, as I said, we already have similar locutions available.
posted by empath at 5:06 PM on December 7


A number of foreign correspondents I've known have used this expression for years. They use it correctly. I see the word creeping into American usage but becoming corrupted in meaning, though I dare not predict in what fashion. An excuse, perhaps, for things undone? A way of avoiding failure? It will be interesting but I think the word could be here to stay, just as Vietnamese corruption of French phrases came into American usage in the 1960s.
posted by etaoin at 5:17 PM on December 7, 2007


This is a real stretch. I get the sense Ms. Murphy had a bright idea and just forged ahead, scraping up whatever "evidence" she could find and stitching it together with wild generalizations. Check this out:

The phrase seems to have permeated all ranks of the diplomatic corps, too: Zalmay Khalilzad, when he was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, once stated at a press conference, “Inshallah, Iraq will succeed."

Uh, Zalmay Khalilzad is a Pushtun. From Afghanistan. He's used the word his entire life. If this is the best you can do, back off slowly and find another story to push.
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on December 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Copycats.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:50 PM on December 7, 2007


I do wonder what of Arabic culture and language will filter back into the west after this particular crusade-- food, music, fashion, language? Is anybody noticing anything yet?

You'll see lots of Keffiyehs in Williamsburg.
posted by specialfriend at 5:54 PM on December 7, 2007


It's NOT like "God willing" or "knock on wood" in a functional sense. It is used here for EVERY reference to the future. Nothing can be predicted with certainty, everything that may happen is only with the will of God.

Have a good evening! See you tomorrow inshallah!

I will do my homework inshallah.

I'll be there in five minutes inshallah.

It permeates everything in the culture with a sense of helplessness about the future and justification for failure, which I think bites.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:54 PM on December 7, 2007


Wha?! Don't be an idiot. It's a signifier of faith and humility, not helplessness and failure-justification.
posted by Firas at 7:03 PM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Inshallah is something else— resigned, accepting, neutral, passive.
This is so much bullshit. She decides what the words mean and then riff on it without looking back.

I agree with languagehat: "This is a real stretch. I get the sense Ms. Murphy had a bright idea and just forged ahead, scraping up whatever "evidence" she could find and stitching it together with wild generalizations."

I have lived for a year in Morocco (30 years ago) and have briefly visited Algeria and Lebanon. I have used the words ever since, but only with people who "get it", meaning people who have lived in Arabic speaking countries. As I have come to understand it (and pronounce it) naturally, it means something like: "I sincerely hope that we will both see this happen, I will do everything I can and I have no doubt that you will too. But the shit can hit the fan and we have no control over it. But we'll do our best."

Which is a far cry from "resigned, accepting, neutral, passive".

Wikipedia seems to agree:
"hope for an aforementioned event to occur in the future. (...) indicate a desire to do something that you wish may occur"

This is a good expression, enveloping and evocative, condensing interesting meaning and feeling among friends, associates and relatives. The fact that it comes from Arabic culture isn't a good reason to dismiss it. After all 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 0.
posted by bru at 7:10 PM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


If He had only excecuted justice upon their gods, Dayenu
He will execute justice upon their gods, Inshallah.
Executions, but no gods or justice, C'est la vie!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:11 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


My tent evangelist great uncle used to punctuate his wishes for the future with, "if we're spared and the Lord tarries." I figure that being worried about death and the rapture matches any other culture's "resigned, accepting, neutral, passive" approach to the future pound for pound.
posted by sy at 8:23 PM on December 7, 2007


I'm sorry; was there a typo earler? What was it? If I'm not seeing it, my fault.
posted by yhbc at 8:30 PM on December 7, 2007


There is a distinct difference, though, between qualified hope for the future and the kinds of strong, determined, confident statements Americans typically make.

I do see the similarity to "God willing," but I also note that outside of certain church communities and my grandparents' generation, you don't hear it very often. Certainly not from the mouths of everyday people doing everyday things - more about desires in the distant future.

Her case is overstated, but the difference in degree of confidence in human ability to direct future events is different in the cultures in question.
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on December 7, 2007


Christ, I am sick of hearing the term "American experiment." It comes off as disgustingly pretentious. America's social system isn't an "experiment" any more than any other.
posted by p3on at 9:20 PM on December 7, 2007


Inshallah is one of my favourite words; I use it all the time.

That's all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:41 PM on December 7, 2007


actually, that's not all.

Masha'Allah & al-Hamdu li-'llah are also wonderful to use.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:51 PM on December 7, 2007


This is a good expression, enveloping and evocative, condensing interesting meaning and feeling among friends, associates and relatives. The fact that it comes from Arabic culture isn't a good reason to dismiss it. After all 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 0.

Actually those numbers originated in India.
posted by delmoi at 11:58 PM on December 7, 2007


Alright, so here is a translated (old) Farsi joke:

A guy is dressing up to leave his house. His wife asks him: Where are you going?
He says: I am going to buy a new car
Wife says: Say Inshallah.
Guy says: Woman, I have the money in my pocket, and the car I want to buy is on sale. There is no need to say Inshallah.
So he leaves the house, and as faith would have it, someone steals his money. He comes back home and rings the buzzer.
His wife asks: who is it?
The guy says: It's me, Inshallah.
posted by lenny70 at 2:22 AM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've been using inshallah for years, just because I like the way it sounds and the meaning fits my world view quite nicely. Was surprised to find that Spanish has literally the same expression as 'ojala'. I assume the root is very much the same.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:43 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


It permeates everything in the culture with a sense of helplessness about the future and justification for failure, which I think bites.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:54 PM on December 7 [+] [!]


Wha?! Don't be an idiot. It's a signifier of faith and humility, not helplessness and failure-justification.
posted by Firas at 10:03 PM on December 7 [+] [!]


In my darker moments, I see these as two sides of the same coin.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:17 AM on December 8, 2007


Well, here outside of Bragg I see NO arabic influence at least as far as the troops are concerned. I do have a small Middle Eastern food mart down the street from me but I wonder how it stays in business as I rarely see anybody IN it.
posted by konolia at 4:55 AM on December 8, 2007


slimepuppy writes "Was surprised to find that Spanish has literally the same expression as 'ojala'. I assume the root is very much the same."

According to Wikipedia:
The Spanish word ojalá and the Portuguese word oxalá (both meaning "I hope [that]") are derived from law šaʾ allāh, a similar phrase meaning "if God willed it" or "if God wished it".
posted by Bugbread at 5:01 AM on December 8, 2007


I do have a small Middle Eastern food mart down the street from me but I wonder how it stays in business as I rarely see anybody IN it.

Obviously a front, to spy on the troops. Your Patriotic Duty is to report it burn it down.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:11 AM on December 8, 2007


Judging by the aggravated looks I get from some whiter-than-white folks whenever my friends and I greet each other in public with a simple "Hola!", I can't imagine the amount of blood shooting from their ears if they started hearing "Inshalla" all over the place.

hehehe
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on December 8, 2007


do have a small Middle Eastern food mart down the street from me but I wonder how it stays in business as I rarely see anybody IN it.

Obviously a front, to spy on the troops. Your Patriotic Duty is to report it burn it down


No can do. They sell these ridiculously tasty millet seed candies. And Turkish Delight!
posted by konolia at 5:59 AM on December 8, 2007


Falafel sales are up in Konolia's nabe. Call the FBI.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Isn't it the relative losers that adopt the idioms of the winners? I mean, we were in Germany for sixty years, and all we've got is bratwurst? Even macht's nichts, or mox nix, is hardly heard in the Army anymore.

I'd say some concepts and acronyms from the fight will live on, but very little from Arabic itself.

For a concept to be adopted, I think it has to fit with the adopting culture's self-conception, and Insha Allah doesn't. STRAC, on the other hand, soldiers on.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2007


That article was kind of fluffy. I say inshallah all the time, due to protracted hanging out with Arabic speakers. I also used the sailors version for years, "weather permitting".
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is it normal to refer to 'America's primal document'? And what is it?
posted by Catfry at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2007


Oh, right, the constitution. Got it.
posted by Catfry at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2007


I just assumed they were referring to a McDonalds menu.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2007


Isn't it the relative losers that adopt the idioms of the winners?

Ain't no winners or losers in this war, though. Except for Halliburton and friends, of course. They're the only winners.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:31 PM on December 8, 2007


Catfry, it the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, that is being referred to.
posted by spaltavian at 5:56 PM on December 8, 2007


In Middle Eastern food stores, also look for the fig preserves. Divine.
posted by telstar at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2007


One of my favorite words is one that grammarians love to attack: hopefully. I think one of the reasons it refuses to go away despite the offensive against it is that we need a word like a word like this--it expresses how we feel despite (or maybe because of) its grammatical impreciseness.

Inshallah is a better word. Though I'm not yet convinced it will be adopted widely.
posted by eye of newt at 8:48 PM on December 9, 2007


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