… and take a joke way too seriously.
An article in Foreign Policy a couple of days ago made me chuckle and I thought I’d share. The article is about former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who was recently deposed from his position as the head of the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership in Iran.
The article’s title is “The Shark Stops Swimming”, and it isn’t supposed to be funny-funny. In fact it is a serious attempt at analyzing and anticipating the fall-out from this departure. It’s written by an Barbara Slavin, a US foreign policy expert who has in fact written a book on Iran.
I don’t know who came up with the ‘clever’ title, but the term shark is re-emphasized in the body of the article where the author says “Rafsanjani, 76, is no democrat. Nicknamed “the shark” for his shrewdness.”. I believe in coming up with title, the author or editor’s thought process went like this: Colloquially, in Iran they call this particular politician ‘kooseh’ which means shark in Persian… Shark is an aggressive creature and in North America, it is associated with shrewedness (for example in use of idioms such as ‘sharks of business’). Therefore the nickname must be a euphemism reflecting shark-like personal qualities. What a catchy title for our North American readers!
Now, I don’t dispute the shrewdness part given that Iranian politics, to the extent that I am aware of, can be described as shark-infested waters. And I don’t know the details of the event in discussion, or want to discuss them. I am simply amused by the fact that as far I am aware, the term ‘kooseh’ in Persian refers (1) the animal known as shark in English (2) someone who can’t grow facial hair. As far as I am aware, the colloquial use of the term in this case is a tongue-in-cheek nickname referring to the latter… certainly, a reflection of a personal ‘quality’ but not exactly what the article had in mind.
This isn’t a big deal… as the rest of the article appears to be more or less correct if not particularly informative in that it simply rehashed widely known facts and views. But, it did make me question the extent to which analysts that aren’t embedded in a culture can be relied on for the more subtle analysis of events and attitudes in a given culture.Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi