Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Front for the Salvation of Private Ryan

Is it just me or does "National Salvation Front" sound a bit goddy? Like a fringey British microparty that splintered off from Christian Voice after some kind of political spat lay folk probably don't understand? Sounds weird, given the main point of them is that they don't like the Muslim Brotherhood, and I doubt a specifically Christian Jesus-Love-and-Brimstone party would be the main opposition anywhere, let alone Egypt. A look at the parties involved makes it seem even weirder: going off the names at least, none of them seem particularly religious. So what's going on with this 'Salvation' name?

First, I clicked across to the Arabic version of the wikipedia page. I don't know enough Arabic to actually know the word for 'Salvation', but I know the 'national' ('وطني') and enough about the word order to guess 'party' ('جبهة') - the noun - would be the first word. So this leaves us with the middle one: 'إنقاذ'.

So how am I supposed to know what an 'إنقاذ' is when it's at home? Well, first thing I did was put it into google images. Turns out the results are pretty light on angels and clouds and whathaveyou, and pretty heavy on drowning people, stuck people, ambulances and helicopters. The second thing I did was search for it on Arabic wikipedia, use google chrome's ham-fisted robotranslator and click a few links. The most revealing one was this: Saving Private Ryan.

So unless I remembered the film wrong 'إنقاذ' has far less to do with the redemption of Private Ryan's immortal soul than it does getting him out of actual physical trouble in the world of the living. Now, it's obvious why they picked 'Salvation'. 'Rescue' sounds weird and not very like political party, and 'National Savings Front' sounds like a militant pro-austerity splinter group, perhaps the less radical wing of the Fiscal Responsibility Army Fraction. But, as is common with Arabic, 'Salvation' does something which seems to happen a lot with Arabic translation and tie into a lot of our preconceptions: it makes the thing sound much more religious than it actually is, rather than an aggressive, drowning-in-shark-infested-lava "we're screwed under this lot" dig at political opponents.