Bonnie Franz has created a knitted jacket “in blue and white cotton with bands of stranded knitting with the word for ‘peace’ in as many languages as I could fit. (There are 98 to be exact!)” It’s a handsome garment, and needless to say I like the multilingual idea (scroll down on the page for the list of words); I hope Ms. Franz will take the following caveats in the helpful spirit that inspired them—they are meant not as complaints but as suggestions for a revised, more accurate product.

The first and most glaring problem is the alleged Romanian “piersica” (which should really be piersică, but diacritics are ignored throughout, presumably for easier knitting). This word does not mean ‘peace’ but ‘peach.’ The word for ‘peace’ is pace, just as in Italian (so the correct form is already on the sweater). I would suggest that the word be replaced on the sweater with (Mandarin) Chinese heping; the language with the greatest number of speakers should surely be represented.

Other problems: rahat is Turkish for ‘comfort, ease,’ not ‘peace’ (oddly, the correct word, barış, is also represented, though without the hook on the s which lets you know it’s pronounced /sh/ rather than /s/); the Icelandic should be friður, not fridur (it’s a different letter, pronounced like th in the); the Cambodian (Khmer) word is sante’phiap, (or santeqphiap, though using q for the glottal stop is misleading), not santekphep (which shows exactly how misleading that q can be); the Slovak word is mier, not miers; the Filipino/Tagalog word pasensiya (stress on the last syllable, by the way) means ‘patience, willingness to forgive’ (the correct word kapayapaan is also on the list); the Basque word is bake, not bakea. I’d quibble about Kurdish “ashti”—my dictionary gives hashiti and ashiti, among others, but no forms without the first i—but there’s no official form of Kurdish and the listed form probably represents one of the dialects, so I’ll let it go. Also, shulam represents some sort of dialect version a common pronunciation of the Yiddish word normally rendered sholem; since the latter is far more widespread, I don’t see why the variant is used even though the -u- version is widespread, I’d think the “official” form would be preferable—though Hebrew lettering would be best of all (see below)!

A totally different quibble is the fact that everything but Greek and Hebrew is given in transcription; if you’re going to take the trouble to give those in the original alphabet (instead of irini and shalom), why not others? For instance, 和平would represent both Chinese and Japanese, and 평화 looks much nicer than pyoung-hwa. The Arabic سلام would represent other languages that use the Arabic alphabet. And of course Yiddish is normally written in Hebrew letters, so I’m not sure why the transliterated form is even there; the Hebrew could stand for both.

Incidentally, for longer ‘peace’ lists (though words are displayed without diacritics) see here and here.

Thanks, Leslie!


  1. Interesting. There’s a passage in Finnegans Wake that contains the word ‘peace’ in n languages too, and from what I recall there’s a similar notion described at the end of Don DeLillo’s Underworld.

  2. Also, the Polish word should be “pokój” [pokuy], not “pokoj”, which is Slovak/Czech for “peace, tranquility”. My Turkish-German dictionary also gives “sulh” for peace in contexts like peace treaty. The Hungarian word is missing a diacritic, i.e. it should be “béke” and my Creole bible tells me that the Haitian Creole word for peace should be “poze” (e.g. John 14:27). Maltese is missing a diacritic, too, it should be “paċi, AFAIK Zulu “uxolo” means “excuse me, pardon me” and some diacritics are missing from the Vietnamese version (though I have no idea which ones).
    Could catch, especially on my native Slovak :o)

  3. Last July when I was in Paris (and possibly more permanently, but I wouldn’t know), there was a building-type sculpture with the word for “peace” in many languages – though more like 20 – on the Champ de Mars (between la Tour Eiffel and l’École Militaire). It seems to be a popular idea.

  4. Wow, something that combines two of my loves (linguistics and knitting, though I love peace too!) But since I’m allergic to steeking, I think I might just stick with my shirt that asks “Would you like fries with that?” in 39 languages.

  5. Hat, I love your column. That aside, the sweater woman was correct with her Urdu word– it’s pronounced aman (uhmuhn– I can’t figure out how to do diacritical marks). It is the correct word for peace. (i.e. War and Peace in Hindi/Urdu is Jang aur aman). Salaam of course means peace as well, but it’s hardly ever used except in arabic formulations. In fact we’re more likely to use the Farsi version– salaamat, but it has some different connotations.

  6. Thanks, I’ll delete that complaint. This is why I love having comments — I learn from people who know more than I do!

  7. I’m not sure she realizes that marks are actually important to the spelling of the word. The Gaelic is given as “siochain”, but both the the first ‘i’ and the ‘a’ should be fada.

  8. michael farris says

    “the Basque word is bake, not bakea”
    I’m very ignorant about Basque, but bakea looks like a definite form and many languages with definite articles routinely use them for abstract nouns (English is unusual in not doing so among the languages I know). So I’m not sure if that’s as serious an error as some of the others. I’d ask a Basque teacher I know but we work in different buildings on different days.
    My (non-native) idea is that la paz is better then plain paz for Spanish, but I could well be wrong.

  9. Ilmarinen says

    From Hat’s last link I see that the Afrikaans word for peace is vrede, or the Scandinavian word for wrath, anger (though I assume the v is unvoiced).
    Irrelevant, but (in my opinion) interesting.

  10. michael farris: Yes, -a is the Basque definite article, but she’s using dictionary forms elsewhere (and rightly, too, in my opinion); as you say, if she’s going to use berea she should also use la paz, la paix, and so on. For that matter, the definite article (feminine) in Romanian is also -a, so she should have pacea as well. I think asking a knitter to master the morphology of 98 languages is asking a lot.

  11. Diacritics are no more difficult to knit than they are to write, shed just need to chart them. If she oversewed the words rather than knitting them into the jacket she’d fit more words on, and have better control over the diacritics and non-Roman scripts…

  12. Found one where both the language and the word for peace are wrong. “Fresian” is normally spelt “frisian” and the frisians would call it “frede”, not “fred”.
    (a few frisians near Denmark might actually say fred, but it’s certainly not the most common form)

  13. I would actually argue that in Yiddish the pronunciation “shulem” is more widespread than “sholem,” though the latter is the ‘standard’ one. Historically “sholem” would only have been found in the Baltic states, Belarus, NE Poland, and the northern Ukraine. Everywhere else would have been “shulem.” Nowadays, furthermore, the vast majority of people in Yiddish-speaking communities are from “everywhere else.”

  14. Also “peace” in Kazakh is not “mir”, it is бейбітшілік (“beybitshilik”), admittedly a much harder word to knit). “Sulh” is now obsolete in Turkish, it was replaced by the native, or made-up, “barış”. Although everyone still knows Ataturks famous saying – “yurtta sulh, cihanda sulh” – “peace at home, peace in the world.”

  15. “ashti” (or in Latin script, “asti” with a cedilla under the ‘s’ and a circumflex accent over the ‘i’) is also correct for “peace” in Kurdish. As you note, there are lots of dialects, and little standardization, but this version would indeed be understood, and seen as one correct version, by most Kurds.

  16. Ben: Really? OK, I’ll take your word for it, but isn’t the -a- in the last syllable a bit odd?
    Vanya: Unless I’m missing it, she doesn’t list sulh for Turkish; she does give solh for Persian, which is correct.
    Forrest: Thanks; I’m glad I decided to let it go!

  17. LH,
    re “sulh”, I should have been more specific, I was responding to Bulbul’s post above.

  18. by the way, how DO you get that Turkish “dotless-i” in HTML? (–and the Turkish “cedilla-s”, which still defeats me??)

  19. I go to Turkish web pages and copy-and-paste.

  20. HTML doesn’t define a specific entity for ı (Latin small letter dotless I), but as part of its general system for encoding Unicode characters, you can use ı (or ı). Similarly, Ş and ş (or Ş and ş) for Ş and ş (Latin capital and small letter S with cedilla), respectively.
    (In general, Unicode character U+XXXX can be encoded using &#xXXXX;.)

  21. “The Icelandic should be friður, not fridur (it’s a different letter, pronounced like th in the)”
    Ah! But not in Faeroese, which – surprisingly enough – is also mentioned. ð is pronounced [j] between i and u (and [v], [w], [g] or not at all in other cases. It’s beautiful but insane…)

  22. Oops. You anglophones would probably call it faroese, not faeroese…

  23. This is an extremely interesting post, and (despite the mistakes and lack of attention to detail) I find the peace jacket to be a most noble idea.
    Just to add another slight correction – the Maltese word paċi should be written with a ‘tikka’ or dot above the c. As a matter of fact, the c without the tikka does not form part of the Maltese alphabet.
    It would be great to see an ‘updated’ and more correct version of the peace jacket!

  24. Found my Kurdish-Russian dictionary (Russian Academy of Sciences, 1960). It gives aştî as a variation of aşîtî.
    Antoine: you are exactly right, as I’ve have pointed out a few posts higher :o)

  25. I’m all for World Peach.

  26. graywyvern: on Windows, you can use the Character map (Start – Run, type “charmap”) and copy any character you want. Not very gurulike, but it works.
    Vanya: thank you for the information :o)
    ben: AFAIK “sholem” is (or rather was) also the standard pronounciation in Galicia and Slovakia.

  27. Going Dotty in Kansas says

    This discussion brings to mind the “peace pole” concept, which seems to have captured the fancy of a lot of mainstream churches in recent years. The idea is to have 8 different ways of saying “May peace prevail on earth”; interestingly, the peace pole in front of a local church here, which is touted as having “8 totally different languages!”, includes English, Spanish, French, Swahili, Hebrew, Arabic, English Braille, and some other language I can’t recall offhand but which is likely to be IE in origin…seems to me that Bonnie Franz has a broader appreciation of the breadth of human speech than this church’s Peace Pole Committee…although there’s no arguing with the inherent worth of peace!

  28. Zackary Sholem Berger says

    I agree with Ben — I was stopped a bit by your Yiddish comment. Nowadays quite a bit more than 50% of Y. speakers (and more every day – whoa, mazel-tov!) say “shulem,” not “sholem.” The “a” you mention is probably just unclarity on how to render schwa. A mistake, I guess.

  29. OK, I’m convinced, and have rewritten accordingly.

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