Via Road to Surfdom (thanks, Tim!), a thought-provoking Letter to the Editor (of the Washington Post):
Saturday, May 17, 2003; Page A24
As part of its propaganda effort in Iraq, the reconstruction office is establishing a newspaper called al Sabah, which is translated as “the dawn” ["U.S. to Take Its Message to Iraqi Airwaves," news story, May 11]. In fact, al sabah means “the morning”; the word for “dawn” is fajr. This is well known even among Muslims who don’t speak Arabic, because a chapter in the Koran is called “al Fajr,” and the first prayer of the day is the fajr, or dawn, prayer.
So morning, dawn—what’s the difference? Well, al Sabah also happens to be the name of the Kuwaiti royal family, as every Iraqi probably knows. News reports indicate that Iraqis already believe that Kuwaitis were behind the looting of their museums. Now they may be likely to believe that this new newspaper is sponsored by Kuwait.
Is that really the impression the reconstruction office wants to convey in this delicate political situation?
For readers of my Arabic Names entry, Umm Abdullah is a kunya meaning ‘mother of Abdullah.’ (Incidentally, Umm Kulthoum is apparently the singer‘s given name rather than a kunya; I assume she was named after the Prophet’s daughter of that name, which means ‘mother of plump cheeks.’ But if anyone out there knows more, please enlighten me.)