Mind your language

Dot Wordsworth on language: Why do we call it ‘Islamic State’?

‘Islamic’ is debatable and so is ‘state’; yet the media drops the definite article

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

I’m puzzled by the dropping of the one part of the name of the Islamic State that seems certain. That it is Islamic, many dispute. That it is a state is just as unclear. But calling it the does not bestow honour upon it, any more than referring to the Third Reich meant agreement with its behaviour. But there’s all the difference between the Queen and Queen. The Islamic State is grammatically like the Irish Free State, the Orange Free State or the Bluegrass State (Kentucky). And yet the BBC commonly speaks of ‘Islamic State’ without the definite article, like Sinn Fein or Sheffield Wednesday.

In June I wrote here about the jihadist group’s good fortune in landing the English acronym Isis — easy to pronounce and remember. It stood for Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (‘al-Sham’ being a name for Greater Syria). Perhaps the government was moved by my congratulations to start referring to it as Isil (in which al-Sham is replaced by the Levant). The Americans had been calling it that, and I see that the Daily Telegraph has now changed to that transatlantic convention. Since then, the group has declared itself a caliphate, or rather the caliphate, since caliphs come in ones, like popes (though I don’t know if they can resign).


None of that explains the dropping of the the. After all, no one says Levant instead of the Levant. Nor is it justified by the Arabic name, which has an article in both parts: ad-Dawlah l-Islamiyyah. Of course, if any such proper name is used attributively, the definite article goes, as grammar demands: for example, ‘an Islamic State fighter’; ‘Islamic State territory’. That is true even in a phrase like ‘the Islamic State claim’. In that example, the definite article goes with claim. A parallel is ‘the Times crossword’, where the the belongs with crossword, not with Times. Hence it is not italicised in ordinary use. Pedants have tried to insist on ‘the The Times crossword’, but flesh is only so strong.

I walked past Isis House in Southwark the other day, on the site of which permission has been given for a 16-storey block. Now the name can continue with no unwelcome connotations of being like ‘al-Qa’eda House’.

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Show comments
  • “Why do we call it ‘Islamic State’?”

    More critical is, why is the Ukrainian Army in Iraq pretending to be “Islamic State”, and why did the West allow Ukrainian troops increase their presence in Iraq the last nine months? Why hasn’t The Spectator nor any other media outlet asked these critical questions?

    For those not in the know, the so-called Ukrainian “separatists” are actually Russian Spetsnaz and Guards Airborne troops, which is why a Russian colonel, Igor Strelkov, is in command and not a Ukrainian.*

    These disguised Russian military units entered the Ukraine last February when the Ukrainian population, nationwide, revolted against the Communist government in Kiev,** the cause for the revolt being the weakened security apparatus within the nation, where most of the Ukrainian Army was in either Syria or Iraq, or preparing to enter Iraq from Turkey, pretending to be Muslim “Jihadists” (Islamic State). The Islamic State “Jihadists” wearing the silly masks are the Ukrainians,*** hiding their pale Caucasian/Slavic identities. Russian special forces posing as Ukrainian separatists are allied with the remnants of the Ukrainian security apparatus in the nation and are attempting to restore Communist “order”.

    Moscow & Allies tasked the West to create Islamic State in southern Turkey (using Ukrainian troops to augment the fake “Islamists”) in order (1) to continue spotlighting the chaos the West causes around the globe, though it’s actually Moscow & Allies causing the chaos via their Marxist puppets in Western capitals; thereby (2) decreasing the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world; and (3) further weaken the United States Armed Forces via never ending wars per Moscow & Allies’ tasked “War on Terror”; the United States Armed Forces will be re-deployed to Iraq.

    The fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Moscow & Allies, which explains why verification of the “collapse” was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    Notice that not one political party in the West demanded verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the “alternative” media. When determining whether the “former” USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the “former” USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    It gets worse–the West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested and detained the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of “Perestroika” (1986-1991)!

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    Now you know why up until 2013 the “electorates” of Russia, Ukraine and Georgia had been “electing” for president only Soviet era Communist Party member Quislings, except for the first president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a true dissident who didn’t even last nine months in office before he was ousted in a coup, later said to have committed “suicide”. Zviad Gamsakhurdia was a failed test run to see if a non-Communist Party member president could be controlled.

    —————————————–

    * https://spectator.com.au/features/9298982/the-frightening-face-of-russias-future/

    **As hundreds of statues of Lenin were being toppled throughout the Ukraine, statues that were supposed to have been toppled back in 1991 if the collapse of the USSR were real and not the strategic ruse it is…

    http://leninstatues.ru/leninopad

    ***http://www.cp24.com/polopoly_fs/1.1920657!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

    Those are professional soldiers (1) cradling their weapons in the military stand down position, with trigger finger kept just outside the trigger guard; and (2) marching in disciplined, two-row, tight formations.

    • Gafto

      Absolute nonsense of the first order. Its common knowledge that Russian soldiers operate in Ukraine. IS are Ukrainians? I suppose German reunification was a dream?

      As an ex professional soldier I can tell you that there is nothing ‘professional’ about IS. Cradling an AK47 in that position just happens to be the most comfortable way to hold one. Having your finger over the guard means nothing. Walking in pairs in a line is not a ‘disciplined tight formation’, girl guides do that. They are a rag tag bunch lacking any discipline. As soon as they come up against an organised force they will scatter amongst the population.

      • Kaine

        Gafto, our dear Dean is something of a fixture believing, amongst other things, that;

        Ebola doesn’t exist
        The USSR was behind the recent Scottish referendum
        China is planning to invade Mexico as part of the drug war
        Sex parties are a Marxist plan to bring down the West
        The Woolwich murder was a hoax

        And my personal favourite,

        Communists are responsible for the decline in bee populations.

        I think your protestations may fall on deaf ears.

        • “Gafto, our dear Dean is something of a fixture believing, amongst other things, that;”

          I’m delighted the Kremlin reads my website, Kaine! Though tell the Kremlin that I never said (1) Ebola doesn’t exist; and (2) “Communists are responsible for the decline in bee populations”. Tell the Kremlin they need to re-analyze my coverage of those two topics.

          • Kaine

            You did say bee decline was caused by Communists. On a video about bee decline you said ” Sabotaging the West’s food supply is the third leg of the general Marxist program of sabotage aimed at the West”

            And as I’ve said, there are statues of the officials of the Raj in India, it is not still under the Raj. There is a statue of Cromwell outside Parliament, we’re not under the Protectorship. There are statues of Napoleon in France, but it’s not an Empire.

          • “And as I’ve said, there are statues of the officials of the Raj in India, it is not still under the Raj.”

            Why wouldn’t there be statues of British notables in India? The British made India a nation. On the flip side, Lenin made Russia a part of the new nation called the USSR (no more Russian nation, thanks to Lenin), hence after the collapse of the USSR, not one statue would be tolerated of the man who reduced Russia to a “republic” of the USSR.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Do marxists have marxist bees impervious to decline?

          • Kaine

            I thought so but it turns out they were just Ukrainians in disguised.

      • “Its common knowledge that Russian soldiers operate in Ukraine.”

        Your reading comprehension is abysmal!

    • doctorseraphicus

      You what?

      Either you are a prophetic genius or an utter lunatic.

      • “Either you are a prophetic genius or an utter lunatic.”

        No doubt about it!

      • Kaine

        He also thinks JK Rowling didn’t write Harry Potter.

        • “He also thinks JK Rowling didn’t write Harry Potter.”

          How do you know she did? Because the media told you?!

          • Fergus Pickering

            The occult is not known to be false. You say it is false which is a rather different thing. I talk to ghosts regularly as Blake tlked to angels. The makea lot more sense than you do.

    • Gerschwin

      Have they stolen the ‘The’ from Ukraine? I want it back.

  • William Haworth

    A better question is, why don’t we recognise it as a state? Then our fight would be of one state against another. Anyone from UK fighting for them would be a traitor; laws exist to deal with that. Anyone captured while fighting for them, or supporting them in this country, would be a prisoner of war, and we could do what we did with the Germans, and keep them locked up for a couple of years after the fighting stops.

    Calling it ‘The’ Islamic State implies that we’ve already recognised it as such (like ‘the’ Soviet Union), and nobody’s made that decision yet. Right now it’s Sinn Fein in flip-flops, not a proper state.

    • Bonkim

      Parallels with Christendom in history – it is a concept rather than a geographically constrained political entity with administrative and governance arrangements and nominated Head of state and Ministers..

    • Sean L

      Laws exist to prevent incitement to murder yet the British police routinely protect Muslims who do just that. As in the protective cordon they provided for those carrying “Behead Those Who Insult Islam” banners.

      • RobertDeLuce

        What about murdering UK and US soldiers, ordered to invade, what laws do you propose there. Oh I see, you want a one side argument.

        • Sean L

          I can’t see what your point is. Anyway, killing invading soldiers in battle is not murder. It could only qualify as murder if they were first captured and then killed.

          • RobertDeLuce

            Invading soldiers, breaking International law, going to war for their own ends, land theft, to benefit the rich and not the children of the usually impoverished soldiers, these are never necessary wars, in defence of ones life, as was certain the case in Vietnam, then the soldiers and those instruct are acting in a criminal fashion against a foreign Country, which gives the right to the defender to try and punish the invaders.

            I did not mean UK and US soldiers being murdered, I said ‘murdering UK and US soldiers’, meaning they are the murderers, not the defenders.

          • Sean L

            I can’t follow any argument there at all. Otherwise if you’re voicing opposition to our military involvement in the Middle East, that makes two of us. Even so, they’re not *murderers*, that’s merely a point of language: “killer” isn’t synonymous with “murderer”.

          • RobertDeLuce

            A murderer kills, unless its an accident. But there is the other type, oh yes, when a terrorists kills a soldier, for terrorists read freedom fighter defending his family from an invader, its referred to a vile murder by uncivilized animals, but when the soldier does the killing, actual invader murder, he does so to defend people 3,000 miles away, from a would be threat to the US, from men who hardly have shoes to walk in. The terrorists/soldier argument is usually a US one, covering up for genocide, Vietnam, fr example.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Oh God. I expect you can go on like that all day,

          • mandelson

            Cleary he is an ueber troll with nobody to interact with in the real world. Best ignored.

          • Fergus Pickering

            You are right, sir. Let us ignore him together.

          • RobertDeLuce

            Together, no opinion gay boys. Do please ignore, I was in discussion with you, just educating you.

          • Fergus Pickering

            What IS this gay boys thing? Are you obsessed? Do you see gay people peeping at you from every corner? Or do you suppose that nobody is concerned with justice, but only with themselves? I don’t know why I bothered. It would have been better to ignore you.

          • RobertDeLuce

            Ferg, just winding you up Justice is my main concern, so I suspect we share that platform. Nice talking with you. R.

          • mandelson

            Not only a sociopath but homophobic to boot.

          • RobertDeLuce

            While you, noted, have precious little to say. Critic without a comment.

    • Fritz123

      Lets call recognition a facing of reality. And yes, Guantanamo is a better answer than prison (without torture etc)

    • RobertDeLuce

      Shit for brains moron, they have referred to it as an Islamic State so that tiny minds like your own will be scared, fearing something that is far less a threat than made out to be. Remember the WMD’s, and what about soldiers from Vietnam being a danger to Washington, take your pick, all lies. The danger is that the West will continue to invade countries to steal their wealth, thus ensuring that no more emerging countries threaten their trade. They are scaring the shite out of you and little the little empty headed boys that you are, you shout war, from the comfort of your armchair, while crapping yourself.

  • Bonkim

    IS, ISIS, ISIL or any other – this lot is evil scum and needs to be exterminated. What is in a name?

    • mandelson

      Add Hamas and the Taliban to that.

      • RobertDeLuce

        You can add, my my, that is bright for an uneducated English drunken slob.

        • mandelson

          Thank you my educated non-English person of sobriety. Your interlectual prowess is dazzling.

          • RobertDeLuce

            You assume non-English, in the way that the uneducated must assume most things, given the lack of access to facts.

            By the way, that word, that would be intellectual. It is good, yes, that your English is not corrected by a non -English person, as that would somewhat dampen the immigrants know nothing half-arsed argument.

          • mandelson

            I love you.

          • RobertDeLuce

            Awwwwwww, how sweet. However, as is usually the case in Teacher and pupil relationships, an apple will do.

    • lookout

      The name with the L is Levant, it includes all of Israel, Obama says it in his speeches, eventually all of Israel will be surrounded, that’s the plan, if it comes off.

    • Mr_Ominous

      They won’t be because the Muslim population is so vast and is rapidly growing in the west. The cowardly British will be displaced eventually in their own country.

      • RobertDeLuce

        Stop reading the Daily Mail, you fool.

        • Mr_Ominous

          The Daily Mail has nothing to do with the fact the Muslim population in Europe, Africa and much of Asia is growing rapidly. Islamic terrorism (Jihad) will never be eradicated but hopefully idiots like you will be.

          • RobertDeLuce

            A defender of the Daily Mail, what next. Islamic terrorism, defending their countries from foreign invaders, that makes them terrorists. What on Earth, then, does that make the invader.

            As to the comment ‘idiot’, coming from a Daily Mail reader and defender, that is laughable.

      • RobertDeLuce

        Behold the day, the British have gone, now we can stop pretending and have fun.

    • rodger the dodger

      What is in a name is their strategic outlook. That’s why it’s important. Telling us their name is “The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham/The Levant”, tells us their targets, apart from Iraq, are Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

      This is not the only thing that westerners are not reading/listening to. ISIS are at pains to publish numerous press releases that tell us everything about them we need to know – their immediate goals and tactics. They even tell us in their PDF, ‘Dabiq’ (issue 3 out now!), that they intend to draw “the armies of the unbelievers” into Syria, to fight them at Dabiq, outside Aleppo – which is why they call it that in the first place.

      I bet you not one solitary person in the FO knows that. Not one.

  • NJH

    Conversely, can we have “Alhambra” rather than “The Alhambra”?

    • Fergus Pickering

      I remember having dancing lessons at The Alhambra. They didn’t do me much good.

  • Icebow

    Calling them ISIS is a blasphemy against the Goddess. Using ‘The tends to reinforce the idea that they actually a state.

  • Gerschwin

    When I was a kiddie it was always ‘The Ukraine’ and suddenly it’s ‘Ukraine’. Presumably he’s still President of the THE United States and not President of United States… only Ruskies can’t deal with articles… maybe they’ve stolen Ukraine’s!

    • Alexandrovich

      You’re quite right of course. I remember my wife’s discomfort when a visiting friend asked her, at dinner, “What is time?”

      • Gerschwin

        With a name like Alexandrovich one would imagine a lot of your friends drop their articles!

        • RobertDeLuce

          Da

      • RobertDeLuce

        Maybe she wanted a discussion on philosophy not the time.

  • 73witness

    These criminals are the farthest to belong to Islam and if they do, why can’t we see their savage actions being carried out by common Muslims in Islamic countries like Egypt,Kuwait and UAE?!!. The answer is clear, these aren’t Muslims, they are just militias that don’t admit religions or laws, they are just big criminals.

    • Cincinnatus

      These criminals are the farthest from Islam

      Nonsense. The farthest from Islam would be the Christian Nuns held hostage by Islamic State.

      why don’t we see their savage actions being committed by common Muslims in Islamic countries like Egypt,Kuwait and UAE?

      Because they are flocking to Syria to join Islamic State, as are Muslims from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia, Canada…

      • Alexsandr

        and quatar is the islamic states banker

    • Auntiemilibland

      I’m afraid you’re quite wrong, the Koran tells them they should kill the kufar, What I can’t understand is successive governments complete surrender of our country to people who hate us yet choose to live here then demand we follow the strict rules of their faith, I personally, along with millions of other non-Muslims respect their right to practice their faith but it is only special to them. If the Muslim community are demanding we send military aid to the Middle East I suggest they enlist ASAP we will train them and parachute them in so they can fight the filth that are using their faith to kill, rape and murder their own, this is not our fight and we need to look after our precious servicemen and women, of course we could always enlist the help of that very successful Middle east Peace Envoy Tony Blair he could go as their brigade leader!!

  • Stephen Milroy

    Maybe we should just go for ‘that bunch of troglodytic savages’.

  • laurence

    Okay. What about ‘Moslems behaving badly’?

    • RobertDeLuce

      What about UK and US soldiers behaving badly. They have murdered more people in the Middle East so far than any one else.

      • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

        Rubbish. How many died in the Iran Iraq war?

    • Fergus Pickering

      What about muslims?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Don’t get picky, Fergus. Correcting obvious spelling errors is wading against the stream in trash culture UK.

        • Fergus Pickering

          I’m not quite sure why I wrote that. I don’t care how they spell it. Mozzies will do perfectly well.

  • Liz

    I just think of them as yet another bunch of men fighting and making women’s lives a misery. Same shit, different week.

  • Monty Dean

    it’s right to call a spade a spade and Islam hell on earth.
    So let’s call an Islamic state a Hellish state.

  • Archibald Heatherington

    “Pedants have tried to insist on ‘the The Times crossword’”

    Ancient Greek DOES actually do this sometimes (eg. “ό καλός ό ίππος”)…

    Those pedants aren’t without a precedent.

  • Fritz123

    The birth of a state just happens without our will. And the fighters dont matter. They are just the posterboys of the old Bathists. There are power, people and land and a sleeping and incapable Iraqi army, not to mention the situation in Syria. We may trash it but we are trashing a new state.

  • RobertDeLuce

    Bonkin, a subtle change to your name would suffice is better describing you. Bonkers.. Evil scum, ah ha, so you have been to al of these countries, know them well, do you, speak the language, understand the history there, do we, or is this just more ‘vile’ racism by another uneducated idiot.

    • Fergus Pickering

      It seems quite nice racism to me.

  • Guest

    ‘Why do we call it …’?

    Because the appeasing, spineless and weak dhimmi UK, does everything that islamist psychotic terrorist nutters are telling them to do, including bending over and handing them over their underage daughters.

    I spit on this country!

  • ardenjm

    “caliphs come in ones, like popes”

    What’s that, Dot?
    I guess you mean THE Pope – the Roman one. But he is not the only one – and I don’t mean the bunch of crazy anti-popes around and about the place.
    I mean the Coptic Pope in Egypt who has gone by the following title for a very long time – and indeed long before the Roman one:

    Pope and Lord Archbishop of the Great City of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Orthodox and Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Holy Apostle that is, in Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya, Nubia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and all Africa.
    The appellation of pope has been attributed to the Bishop of Alexandria since the episcopate of Heraclas, the thirteenth Bishop of Alexandria. All the clergy of Alexandria and Lower Egypt honored him with the appellation papas, which means father, as the senior and elder bishop among all bishops, within the Egyptian province, who are under his jurisdiction, three centuries before it was assumed by Pope John I Bishop of Rome (523–526), who ratified the Alexandrian computation of the date of Easter. Bestowing the title on Rome’s pontiff did not strip it from Alexandria’s, and the Roman Catholic Church recognizes this ecclesiastical fact.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Islamic is not at all debatable. They are all muslims, therefore islamic.

  • Good idea for us to fund and train these nutters with Saudi cash and Israeli assistance. Even better getting the media to play along with the pantomime. Sir John Sawyers will be elated.

  • DonPhil

    Nomenclature in the news media of places with articles (Yukon, Argentine, Ukraine etc.) is a matter of house style (for which the BBC has an official style book, listing rules and precedents.) Is Dot Wordsworth’s “puzzlement” genuine ignorance, or is she just pretending?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    ISIS; it’s not just a river in Oxford.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Big picture time, Britisher pals. The next world war is going to be between Christianity and Islam, which is why Russia and China are sitting on their hands and whistling Dixie.
    Nice neutral Buddhist country, anyone?
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

    When they come for you just tell them you think it’s “Nothing to do with Islam”, that will send them away with a flea in their ear

  • And yet so many people commonly refer to “the Ukraine” when it is, in fact, simply ‘Ukraine’.

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