Stranger Than Diction

Some tidy air-traffic dispensations have been made to nations that recognize the legitimacy of the “Persian Gulf.”

The Persian Gulf has seen its fair share of war. No wonder: the gulf is geographically strategic, boasts the world’s largest single source of crude oil, and has a vibrant fishing industry. But another, more sinister, type of war has been brewing for the past 50 years. The war is a dispute over names, and it has Arabs and Persians in a tizzy.

Since the ’60s, Arabs have been complaining about Iran’s official stranglehold on naming rights to the gulf. They’ve offered “Arabian Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf” in a gesture of compromise. The Iranians say that’s it’s always been named the Persian Gulf, so why change it now?

What’s not really surprising is that this kerfuffle has produced some petulant point of views. According to some in the know:

Iran only uses the term “Persian Gulf” and does not recognize the naming when it is referred to as “Arabian Gulf” or just the “Gulf.” Iran does not consider the latter an impartial usage, and views it as an active contribution to abandonment of the historical name. Foreign airlines which do not use the term “Persian Gulf” are banned from Iran’s airspace.

Very reasonable, I think. I’d rather be denied the chance to visit than denied the chance to leave.


Residents of Derry/Londonderry have instituted a curious ban in an effort to quell partisan violence.

In Ireland, another contentious battle is being waged over squiggly lines put on paper. It’s between unionists and nationalists, and it has to do with a city called Derry/Londonderry. Nationalists want the city to be named “Derry,” while unionists prefer “Londonderry.” As you can imagine, in Northern Ireland, people take these shibboleths very seriously. For example, if you pass gas and your bum-whistle makes a wheezing squawk sound instead of a buccolabial pop sound, that’s a very, very bad thing because it means you’re unionist.

The Derry Journal broke wind on this story about a Canadian student being stymied after innocently asking about transportation to Derry/Londonderry:

[The Canadian student] had travelled to Belfast from Dublin on August 4, but her onward journey to Derry was held up when she enquired about bus times to the city, only to be told at the information desk of the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast that Derry “didn’t exist.”

What a cheeky concierge! I’ve told lots of people that Kansas didn’t exist, but it only ever worked on Americans, and I swear I was only looking out for their safety. (Some truths are just too painful.) A Canadian bamboozled, with their education and healthcare and fancy European languages! I tremble thinking of the indignorance of a duped American.

Still, some residents of Derry/Londonderry manage to find humor in the schism. Because of the common use of the backslash, or “stroke,” in the city’s name, some citizens have taken to calling it “Stroke City.” To me it conjures up images of elderly people tilting over. Ireland’s tourism bureau, however, has run with the unlikely pseudonym, unveiling a new slogan just in time for the summer uptick: “Come to Ireland. Stroke us for all we’re worth.”


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