Printer Friendly

Women Who Cough and Men Who Hunt: Taboo and Euphemism (kinaya) in the Medieval Islamic World.

This article examines how Arabic handled societal taboos in the medieval Islamic world and the ways by which language users applied censorship that led to the creation of euphemisms. Special attention is given to sources from the eastern part of the Islamic world dating to the fourth/tenth and the fifth/eleventh centuries, and to the taboo topics and types of euphemisms they disclose. The complex relationship between the concept of euphemism and kinaya, the polysemous Arabic term that renders it, is examined. As a whole, the evidence demonstrates an overwhelming Arabic preference for figurative speech over change of form as the essential generation mechanism of euphemisms. Finally, light is shed on the ways in which discerning medieval literary critics anticipated significant modern sociolinguistic observations: the relations between euphemism, orthophemism, and dysphemism, in addition to the incessant process of euphemism degradation.


A universal human phenomenon, taboos are well attested in past and present societies. A taboo is defined by the linguists Keith Allan and Kate Burridge as "a proscription of behaviour for a specifiable community of one or more persons, at a specifiable time, in specifiable contexts." Despite their ubiquity, "there is no such thing as an absolute taboo that holds for all worlds, times and contexts." (1) People censor their language in order to avoid taboo words, which are believed to be either harmful or uncomfortable to the speaker or hearers. Tabooed words are commonly related to sex, bodily functions and effluvia, sickness, death, food, and the sacred. Such words are often expressed in language indirectly by means of a euphemism, "sweet talking," (2) an elaborate and inclusive definition of which is "an alternative to a dispre-ferred expression, in order to avoid possible loss of face: either one's own face or, through giving offense, that of the audience, or of some third party." (3)

My main goal in this article is to show how Arabic reflected societal taboos in the medieval Islamic world, and the ways by which Arabic speakers applied censorship that led to the creation of euphemisms. The Arabic term for euphemism used in the medieval sources is kinaya (4) However, it should be stated at the outset that euphemism-kinaya is not a one-to-one relationship; before treating its euphemistic sense, the polysemy of kinaya will be discussed in the next section.

Most of the substantial primary sources I examined are dated to the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries. Among these, the compilation of euphemisms made by the celebrated anthologist and literary critic Aba Mansur (d. 429/1039), (5) Kitab al-Kinaya wa-l-ta'rid (The Book of Euphemism and Allusion), occupies a special place. Al-Tha'alibi's work, the first of its kind according to its author, was first composed in Nishapfir in the year 400/1009. Later he produced a second edition and dedicated it to his then patron, the Khwarazmshah Abu l-'Abbas Ma'mun b. Ma'mun in Gurganj. (6) This must have happened no later than 407/1017, when the Khwarazmshah was assassinated. (7) The great value of this book lies in its thematically organized treatment of euphemisms, the opulent body of varied examples adduced by the anthologist, and--to some degree--his attention to the social context. These merits are only marginally affected by the fact that al-Tha'alibi, who was not a systematic literary critic, did not address kinaya (in his use, almost exclusively "euphemism") from a rhetorical point of view; nor by the fact that he neglected to discuss how it differed from ta'rid ('allusion'). Literary critics and rhetoricians who lived after al-Tha'alibi applied more systematic thought to kinaya. Their efforts led to more sophisticated and elaborate definitions of the term from a rhetorical vantage point. (8) Nonetheless, the concentrated efforts by scholastic rhetoricians--al-Sakkaki (d. 626/1229) and his followers--to define kinaya systematically, based on the pioneering work of (Abd al-Jurjani, resulted in an abstract discussion disengaged from its social functions and cultural heritage. (9) As "euphemism" kinaya has to date been addressed insufficiently--if at all--by modern scholarship. (10)

The present inquiry seeks to study it from the rhetorical. linguistic, and social aspects in the medieval Islamic world.


The lexicographical definition of kinaya by Ibn Manzur (d. 711/1311) reads:
  Kinaya is saying one thing and meaning another. "He spoke
  indirectly of the matter with [an expression] other
  than it, he speaks indirectly, indirect speech" means
  he says other than it from which it is inferred, like
  [in words denoting] sexual intercourse, feces, etc. (11)

Kinaya is glossed here as "periphrasis" and associated with taboo terms, which in practice means "euphemism." This is indeed the predominant, general, non-technical sense of the word, but it says little of how a kinaya, an expression standing in for another, succeeds at evoking the intended meaning in the recipient's mind.

The highly influential and original literary theorist 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani (d. 471/1078 or 474/1081) (12) appears to have been the first to present a thoughtful explanation of this process from a rhetorical vantage point. His contribution is important enough for our discussion of kinaya to warrant a close examination in some detail. 'Abd al-Jurjani discusses kinaya alongside majaz ("tropical speech") as both share a common trait, namely, being types of expressions whose intended meaning differs from their explicit meaning. Kinaya, says 'Abd al-Qahir, is the indication of a certain meaning not with a word conventionally applied to it in the language (al-lafz; al-mawdu' lahu fi l-lugha), but with the corollary of the meaning in the existent world (talihi wa-ridfuhu fi-l-wujud). The examples for kinaya adduced by him (also elsewhere) are "long of baldric" (tawil al-nijad) for a tall man; "rich in ashes of the cooking-pot" (kathir ramad al-qidr) for a very hospitable man; and "late morning sleeper" (na'um al-duha) for a woman leading a life of ease and plenty. In each of these cases, the kinaya is the corollary of the intended meaning in the real world: a tall man wears a long baldric for his sword, a very hospitable man welcoming many guests produces plenty of ashes cooking for them, and a woman leading a life of comfort and ease has servants attending to her needs and consequently can sleep until late morning. (13) Another typical example is the line by the poet Ziyad al-A'jam (d. ca. 100/718) [kamil]:
  Inna I-samahata wa-l-muru'ata wa-l-nada fi qubbatin duribat
  'ala bni l-Hashraji Generosity, virtue, and liberality
  are indeed in a round tent pitched over Ibn al-Hashraj

(Abd al-Qahir comments that the poet located the qualities of the praised patron in the tent pitched over him instead of in his personality. This is an instance of kinilya built on the physical proximity of the patron to the tent (shay'in yashtamilu 'alayhi wa-yatalabbasu bihi). (14)

He approves of the widely held principle that kinaya is more eloquent than explicit speech (al-kinaya ablaghu min al-ifsah), just as "tropical speech (majaz) is always more eloquent than proper speech (haqiqa)." Tropical speech is more powerful and its greater effect on the human soul is a natural and normal reaction. IS The reason for that, explains (Abd al-Qahir, is that kinaya (and similarly the various types of majaz) furnishes competent evidence for the argument made, which does not exist in the explicit expression:
  When you apply a kinaya to "great hospitality" saying
  "richness in ashes of the cooking-pot," you have
  predicated great hospitality by the predication
  (ithbat) of its evidence and proof, and through
  the sign of its existence. That is by all means
  more eloquent than predicating it by itself [saying
  "he is very hospitable," EN], because its method
  then is the method of a claim accompanied by evidence. 16

'Abd al-Qahir differentiates between two kinds of speech: (1) the speaker's intention is grasped through the meaning of the expression (lafz) solely, e.g., kharaja Zayd for Zayd's departing properly ('ala l-haqiqa); and (2) the intention is grasped through the meaning of the expression (lafz) and then through a secondary meaning. The latter characterizes kinaya (like isti'ara 'metaphor' and tamthil 'analogy'), as when huwa kathiru ramadi l-qidr is first understood from its primary meaning "he is rich in ashes of the cooking-pot," and through it the secondary, intended meaning "he is very hospitable." The two different understanding processes in (1) and (2) are called by (Abd al-Qahir al-ma'na and ma'na al-ma'na, respectively. (17)

It is striking that in Dala'il al-i'jaz 'Abd al-Qahir always treats kinaya in conjunction with majaz, and demonstrates how both work in comparable ways, without however subsuming the former under the general category of the latter, as he does in the case of isti'ara. (18) In a nutshell, 'Abd al-Qahir views majaz as an extended meaning of a given expression. This extended or, more aptly, tropical meaning must maintain a certain relationship of similarity or contiguity with the proper meaning of the expression. 19 One would expect this definition (with a relationship of contiguity) to apply to kintiya inasmuch as it applies to isti'ara and tamthil (with a relationship of similarity), the two tropes he plainly subsumed under majaz. Moreover, kinaya, istiara, and tamthil are bundled together as three types in which meaning is derived through reasoning (mdqul) and not understood literally from the expression (lafz). (20) In other words, meaning is inferred through the process he calls mana al-mana (as outlined above) in each one of them. As a result, it is not completely clear whether (Abd al-Qahir considered kinaya a trope (majaz), and if not, what the grounds for its exclusion were from this general category.(21)

Kamal Abu Deeb also asks whether kinaya is to be considered a form of imagery in Abd al-Qahir's theory, suggesting that "it is perhaps significant that al-Jurjani does not discuss kinaya in Asrar, which is devoted to his theory of imagery." (22) While kinaya is not discussed in Asrar, the verb kana and kinaya do occur there a few times. Surprisingly, they do not appear in the technical sense encountered in Dated, but in the lexicographical sense of "to express indirectly," and are used inter alia in the discussion of simile-and analogy-based metaphors. (23) Abu Deeb hypothesizes that kinaya is set apart from other types (like metaphor)--unequivocally subsumed under majaz--since it is not based on a similarity relationship between the explicit meaning and the intended meaning, (24) but this is improbable because Abd al-Qahir associates both relationships of contiguity (physical, logical, or cultural) and similarity with majaz.:
  [In majaz lughawi] the speaker went beyond the original
  lexicographical meaning of a word (jaza bi-l-lafzati aslaha l-ladhi
  waqaat lahu btidaan fi l-lugha) and applied it to another
  [meaning] on account of either similarity (tashbih)
  or contiguity (sila wa-mulabasa) linking the target meaning
  to the source meaning. (25) Know that the way of tropical
  meaning and extension (tariq al-majaz wa-l-ittisa) [...] is that you
  mention a word while not intending its meaning but rather
  a certain meaning that is its corollary or similar [to it]
  (ridf aw shabih). With that [meaning], you use tropical speech
  (tajawwazta) in respect to the word and the expression itself.(26)

In each of these passages Abd al-Qiihir points to contiguity as one of the two possible relationships underlying majaz. Hence, contiguity is in that respect a legitimate counterpart of similarity. Indeed, (Abd al-Qahir includes metonymy--e.g., hand (yad) for benefit (nima) because of the contiguous relationship between the patron's awarding hand and the benefit--in the general category of majaz (while criticizing those who consider it a metaphor). (27) For later rhetoricians (but apparently not Abd al-Qahir himself) the technical term for metonymy, when this oft-quoted example is adduced, is majaz mursal 'loose trope'. (28) One would be justified in arguing that the ways in which majaz mursal and kinaya work are the same, as both are established on the relationship of contiguity. It is consequently unclear why the former is taken as a type of majaz by Abd al-Qahir while the status of the latter is ambiguous in this respect.

In light of his definition and examples, Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani understands kinaya as periphrasis or metonymy. Remarkably, he neither adduces euphemistic kinayeit as examples nor addresses this function of the term. The ambivalence seen in his approach to kinaya precludes us from making any conclusive judgment as to whether or not he regarded it as a trope. Nonetheless, the patterns he identifies in terms of meaning creation and comprehension common to both kinelya and "acknowledged" types of majliz do not rule out including kinaya among the other tropes. Despite his contribution to the understanding of the rhetorical processes characteristic of kinaya. its place in his theory is rather marginal (compared to metaphor or simile), and as a result a typology of kinelyeit and--more significantly--a comparison of kinaya and majaz are not addressed. The task of clarifying and elaborating on these (and other) important issues was left for later rhetoricians, who relied on his works. (29) A more satisfying approach to the rhetorical processes characteristic of kinaya was presented by Diya al-Din Ibn al-Athir (d. 637/1239), whose influential definition of the term is considered a turning point in its history. He described kinaya as "[An expression] drawn to either proper (haqiqa) or tropic (majaz) meaning, which can be interpreted from both sides," owing to a "descriptive feature comprehending (wasf jami li-) each of these senses." (30) Thus, the verb in "[if] you touch women" (Q 4:43) is possible to understand in its literal meaning or as a kinayu, the tropic sense of which is sexual intercourse, which, "Ibn al-Athir points out, does include actual touching." (31) It should be stressed that Ibn al-Athir explicitly uses majaz for the sense of kinaya that is not haqiqa, and hence, unlike other rhetoricians, he does not differentiate between kinaya and majaz as two different rhetorical processes. Moreover, according to him, kinaya is a category of istiara. which is a type of majaz. Thus, kinatya is majaz.(32)

In grammatical context, kinaya could also mean 'pronoun', as explained by the grammarian and lexicographer Abu 1-Husayn Jim Faris (d. 395/1004). He considered it the second meaning of kinaya, whose first one was "euphemism." (33) In addition, the kunya is understood as a type of kinaya. (34) Finally, since signification is not limited to language, (35) kinaya could also take a non-linguistic shape. An example given by the literary critic Abu Hilal al-'Askari (d. after 400/1010) refers to kinaya as a non-linguistic sign: al-'Anbari sent a purse with thorns and another with sand and a colocynth (hanzala) to his people, meaning "the Banu Hanzala will come to you in great numbers, like the abundance of sand and thorns." (36)

We learn from remarks made by Ibn al-Athir that awareness of the universality of euphemism existed among medieval literary critics. At the end of the section on kinaya and ta'rid, he informs the reader that they both exist in languages other than Arabic as well, noting that he often found them in Syriac ("the Christians' Gospel produced a lot of these two"), and pointing out one case of euphemistic use of kinaya in Persian (in Arabic translation). (37)

To sum up, kinaya is a polysemous term; its lexicographical sense of "indirect speech" or "periphrasis" usually means in practice "euphemism," as its primary linguistic function is to express social taboos in an acceptable manner (unlike the explicit taboo words). It also has a "non-linguistic signification," whose function--based on the example above--is to allude in a covert way when the exigencies demand it. In addition, kinaya has the following technical senses: as "pronoun" in grammatical context; as a sign "of deference" (li-l-tabjil), namely, the kunya agnomen; and as a specific rhetorical process that received serious attention first from 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani. It was later reformulated significantly and influentially by Ibn al-Athir, who defined it as an expression from which meaning can be produced by way of proper and/or tropical sense (i.e., conjunctively or disjunctively).


The passage in al-Tha'alibi's introduction to Kitab al-Kinaya describing the goal of his work touches on the concepts of taboo and euphemism, and sheds light on the worldview that created them:
Then, this is a book of little size, [but] significant weight,
of small volume, [but] big advantage, about euphemisms (kinayat)
for that whose mention is disapproved of and whose propagation
is disliked: that whose naming is shameful, that which is regarded
as an evil omen, or that which one disdains and preserves his
honor from by means of acceptable expressions. These [acceptable
expressions] convey the meaning, state clearly the sense,
beautify the ugly, refine the crude, and dress it pleasingly
when addressing kings. corresponding with modest people
(muhtashimin), conferring with men of excellence, and discussing
with possessors of virtue (muru'a) and elegance (zarf). In this
way, the intended is accomplished and success appears, while one
turns away from what the ear finds repugnant and nature is not
at ease with, toward a speech to which the ear listens favorably
and the heart does not reject. This speech takes the place of
repugnant discourse and substitutes for it. (38)

Contrary to his use of kinaya for "euphemism," al-Tha'alibi does not use a distinct term for "taboo." He portrays it instead vaguely as things the bringing up of which is socially discouraged and harmful: articulating them inflicts shame, compromises one's honor, or may be inauspicious. Taboo words are averse to human nature itself ("what the ear finds repugnant and nature is not at ease with"), which arguably makes the use of euphemism even more imperative. The euphemisms presented by al-Tha'alibi in this work are proclaimed by the author to be those suitable for the elite. He says nothing of their make-up from a linguistic or rhetorical point of view, treating them as beautifying substitutes only.

The Baran jurisprudent, literary scholar, and judge Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Jurjanni (d. 482/1089) composed a book on euphemisms, with many points of similarity (in terms of the examples and evidence adduced, and--more broadly--the concept of the work as a whole) to al-Tha'alibi's, but without a reference to it. (39) The passage in which he discusses euphemism and taboo in his introduction is an appropriate counterpart to that of al-Tha'alibi:
Know that the original [or, primary] sense (asl) of kinayat is
one's expression of acts normally concealed from [others'] eyes,
namely, relieving oneself, copulating, and what follows and comes
close to these, with words indicating them [but I not created for
them. It is done in order to steer clear of mentioning them [the
taboo words] in their very expressions, and to be wary of the
words formed for them. Because the need to conceal their terms
is like the need to conceal the acts they denote. and thus using
a euphemism (kinaya) for them is a curtain 'extended] for their
meanings, behind which their fault is hidden, and their disgrace
is veiled from the ears. (40)

Ahmad al-Jurjani's presentation of the subject is similar to al-Tha'alibi's, but is somewhat more focused. Like the latter he describes "taboo" without assigning a distinct term to it. The defining criterion for a taboo, according to him, is the privacy of the act--its being hidden from the public eye--which he illustrates with two quintessential taboo topics: defecation and copulation. Kinaya. then, is the expression of these hidden acts "with words indicating them [but] not created for them." Words indicating something but not "created for it" could well define a metaphor (isti'ara), for instance. Thus, from a rhetorical point of view,

Ahmad al-Jurjani's definition, like al-Tha'alibi's beautifying substitutes, is short of careful thought. The approach of the former, slightly more analytic than that of the latter, distinguishes the taboo act from the word (af'al and aqwa1). Still, he sees the taboo word on the same level with the act ("the need to conceal their terms is like the need to conceal the acts they denote")--not merely as a neutral representation of it. This "logic" defies the conventionality and arbitrariness of the naming process famously pointed out by Aristotle, and in modern times by Ferdinand de Saussure. (41) This underlying perception of natural relation between signified and signifier--that the form of an expression communicates the essential nature of the referent--is likewise common among speakers of other languages. (42)

We have already encountered the common taboo topics of defecation and copulation in Ahmad al-Jurjani's kinaya definition. Let us now survey the range of taboo topics found in al-Tha'alibi's Kitab al-Kinaya and see how representative they are of common taboo topics described in sociolinguistic scholarship. In what follows I list the taboo topics thematically, adhering as much as possible to al-Tha'alibi's ordering (page numbers refer to al-Buhayri's edition):

1. women in general, particularly their sex organs, sexual intercourse with them, defloration, menstruation, and pregnancy (pp. 9-24,29-51,149);

2. men, the following topics: male sex organs, attainment of puberty in male youths, circumcision, young passive homosexuals, homosexual intercourse with them, pederasts, the appearance of beard on the face of youths, passive homosexuality in male adults, fornication (pp. 25-29.52-75,91-94,156);

3. bodily functions, effluvia, and the place designated for them: breaking wind, defecation, micturition, vomiting, the lavatory (pp. 76-85,151);

4. physical defects and blameworthy character traits, such as ugliness, blackness, leprosy, blindness, insanity, being boring, stinginess, stupidity, meddlesomeness, mendacity, apostasy, dirtiness (pp. 86-90,95-112,148,150);

5. bad poets and poetry (pp. 113-16);

6. contemptible professions, such as pimping, begging, tailoring, weaving, cupping (pp. 111,116-19.123-26,157);

7. poverty (pp. 119-20);

8. striking (or slapping) on the back of the neck (pp. 121-23);

9. sickness (pp. 127-29,148);

10. hoariness, middle age, old age, nearing death (pp. 129-31);

11. death (pp. 132-33);

12. killing (pp. 134-35);

13. food (pp. 136-39);

14. wine, musical instruments, music, singers (pp. 139-43);

(15.) undesired conditions related to government and administrators: dismissal from service, defeat in battle, confiscation, mutiny, shackling, bribery (pp. 144-47, 148-49);

(16.) body care comprising hygienic practices such as hair cutting, shaving, nail clipping, and an appliance for hair removal (pp. 150-52).

This list itemizing taboo topics found in al-Thaalibi's work is commensurate to a large extent with topics commonly tabooed in other times and places, namely, sex, bodily functions and effluvia, sickness and death--the most widely tabooed aspects of human life. The list gives us something of a snapshot of entities, conditions, and dispositions in need of linguistic "beautification," according to the dominant social norms of the time. The picture received from Ahmad Kinayat al-udaba is fairly akin to that of al-Thaalibi. A striking absence in the above list, however, is of taboos related to the sacred, and especially the taboo on the naming of God. Among Jews, for instance, the name of God (the Tetragrammaton, YHWH) is a strict taboo, and similar taboos exist among Christians and other religious groups, too. (43) Al-Thaalibi indicates nothing along these lines, which may point to the lack of such a taboo among Muslims despite the existence of a common interpretation of Q 2:224 that explains the verse as forbidding Muslims to use the name of God frequently and freely while swearing in order not to degrade it. (44) The absence of any reference to this taboo by al-Thaalibi is noteworthy, since the kunya is explained by Ibn Faris as a euphemism deriving from a taboo on personal names. (45) If this is indeed the case among humans, we are left to wonder how allah, the Arabic name of God, is not tabooed to avoid metaphysical malevolence by counteracting possible blasphemies and profanities that may arouse His wrath. (46)

The chapter on food does not contain any euphemism for foods (47) prohibited by Islamic law, such as pork (unlike the generic euphemism davar aher 'another thing' used in Rabbinic literature for the Hebrew word ttazir 'pig/pork'). (48) The examples for food provided by al-Thaalibi reveal that kinaya in this case is not used in its euphemistic sense, but as periphrasis for the sake of wit or group feeling (likewise in Ahmad al-Jurjani's parallel chapter). (49) For example, "the Sufis have kinayat for foods, of which I found elegant their calling lamb 'the martyr, son of the martyr' (al-shahid ibn al-shahid) and calling qataif 'the graves of the martyrs' (qubur al-shuhada.)" The only use approaching euphemism has to do with etiquette: one's hinting of hunger to the host without saying so explicitly. The message is expected to be understood pragmatically by the hearers, and as such it would have been more accurately discussed under the category of tarid, as done by later rhetoricians. (50)

Both al-Thaalibi and Ahmad al-Jurjani have a special chapter on inauspicious expressions, (51) whose mere articulation is believed to cause the undesired situation or outcome signified by them. One should therefore avoid these expressions in favor of adequate euphemisms. The themes in question in both sources are wild animals and their harm, jinn, sickness, death, physical defects, character shortcomings, and dissent. Ahmad al-Jurjani also includes euphemisms for killing and the killed, shackles, and waterless deserts. (52) Hence, for example, a euphemism for a snake is "the long [one]" (al-tawila). (53) This very euphemism is mentioned by AN' Hayydn al-Tawhidi (d. 414/1023) among widespread sayings and practices of the commoners (anima), many of which are superstitious: "They do not say 'snake' during the night, rather 'the long [one]'. If one of them errs and says 'snake', he repeats it three times." (54) It is often the case that antonyms are used as euphemisms for inauspicious expressions to become a good omen, as explained by Ahmad al-Jurjani:
Among the things whose mention is regarded as auspicious is their
[the Bedouin] calling a waterless desert "a place of safety," since
there is perdition in wasteland traveling. It should have been called
-a place of destruction," but they beautified its expression, seeing it
as inauspicious, and inverted it to regard it auspiciously ...Falling
under that is their calling a person bitten (by a snake or scorpion)
"the unhurt," to regard it auspiciously. (55)

As we saw above, al-Thaalibi proclaimed the euphemisms presented in his work to be suitable for the elite. Let us look briefly at the materials used in his work. Aside from the Quran and hadith, he often produces poetry and prose pieces as evidence for euphemisms. Sometimes the creator or user of a euphemism is not identified as an individual but as a group of speakers with certain characteristics in common (page numbers refer to al-Buhayri's edition): (1) commoners (amnia): pp. 22, 50-51 (in prose and poetry). p. 62 (translated from Persian), pp. 79, 110; (2) geographic location, with or without additional qualifications: the licentious of Baghdad (al-mujjan min ahl baghdad): pp. 43, 46; the people of Baghdad (ahl baghdad): pp. 108, 156-57; the people of Medina (ahl al-madina): p. 164; some contemporary people from Nishapur (bad al-asriyyin min ahl naysabur): p. 60; many provinces (kathir min al-buldan): p. 71; Mecca, Basra, Kufa, Medina: pp. 83-85; (3) Bedouin (a1-arab, and in the last reference only, arab): pp. 9, 12, 15, 20, 28. 31. 157, 158; (4) profession: physicians: pp. 79, 151; weaver: p. 123; blood-letter: p. 124; philosopher: p. 133; the Banu Sasan (umbrella term consisting of lowlife figures such as beggars, vagabonds, and tricksters; both references present euphemisms in argot): pp. 28, 108; (5) mystics (al-sufiyya): pp. 57, 138; (6) contemporaries: a contemporary [poet] (bad al-asriyyin): p. 43; the eloquent among al-Thaalibi's contemporaries (bulagha al-asr): pp. 127-31.

Al-Thaalibi'ss materials, therefore, show great diversity, as one would expect from an adab anthologist. They are employed in this work aimed at an elite audience for different purposes. Euphemisms from the Quran and hadith are of the highest authority and serve as a model for speakers of Arabic; those used or created by individuals in poetry and prose are of lesser status but are still a highly influential model; while euphemisms used by lower social classes are intended to educate and entertain hut not necessarily to act as a model. The latter include, for example, slang euphemisms of the Banta Sasan, as we learn from al-Thaalibi's remark: "As for kaydh (slang for penis), it is a euphemism of the Banu Sasan, and doesn't belong to the euphemisms that are the precondition of our book (shart kitabina)." (56)


To understand properly the function of euphemism (sweet talking) in language, we should think of it as one member of a triad including dysphemism (speaking offensively) and orthophemism (straight talking). (57) A union set of all three in English is, for instance, "poop," "shit," and "feces." These are cross-varietal synonyms denoting the same thing but having different connotations, which mark different styles used in different circumstances. Allan and Burridge use the collective term X-phemism for such a union set. (58)

Unlike dysphemisms, both orthophemisms and euphemisms are considered polite. Both arise from conscious or unconscious self-censoring whose goal is to avoid taboo words, but they differ in that "An orthophemism is typically more formal and more direct (or literal) than the corresponding euphemism; a euphemism is typically more colloquial and figurative (or indirect) than the corresponding orthophemism." (59) The X-phemistic value of an expression is determined by the particular context of use, viz. addressing Jesus Christ when praying (orthophemistic) versus when swearing (dysphemistic). (60)

The title of al-Thaalibi's short chapter on dysphemism--Fasl fi didd al-kinaya wa-manahu taqbih al-hasan ka-ma anna mdna l-kinaya tahsin al-qabih (A Chapter on Dysphemism, and Its Meaning Is the Uglification of the Beautiful. Just as the Meaning of Euphemism Is the Beautification of the Ugly)--reveals that he thought of it in relation to euphemism, indeed, as its binary opposite: kinaya or tahsin al-qabih for euphemism, and didd al-kinaya or taqbih a1-hasan for dysphemism. (61) Two examples for dysphemism quoted by the anthologist follow:
  A raffine (bad al-zurafa) entered a vineyard, looked at the
  unripe grapes (hisrim), and said: "O God, blacken their faces,
  cut off their necks, and let me drink their blood."

  Ibn Mukarram came to Abu I-Ayna while he was on his prayer
  carpet (musalla), and wanted to sit on it with him. [Abu I-Ayna]
  said: "Do not defile my prayer carpet." [Ibn Mukarram] replied:
  "Rather it is the wallow of your sinful conduct (mutamarragh
  fisqika)." (62)

In both cases the speaker "uglifies the beautiful," to wit, opts for phrases with connotations that are offensive either about the denotatum and/or to those addressed. In the first example. vocabulary and style that are normally used to call upon God to avenge one against his enemies are applied to unripe grapes. The context clarifies that the real denotatum is the unripe grapes to ripen and be made into wine, but it derives its rhetorical force from the obvious analogue--enemies to be disgraced and slaughtered. The grapes, whose shape is often depicted as beautiful (and should be seen at least as a neutral expression), are rendered "ugly" by the offensive connotation of hated enemies. The second example is the prayer carpet being dysphemized as "wallow of sinful conduct." "Prayer carpet" has positive (or, again, at least neutral) connotations; here, however, both it and the addressee, Abu I-Ayna, are "uglified" by the offensive connotations of animals and indulgence in (illicit) sexual activity. (63)

Unlike al-Thaalibi who does not really attempt to subject dysphemism to analysis, the poet and literary critic Ibn Sinan al-Khafaji (d. 466/1074) offers a noteworthy insight into its nature.64 Similarly to Al-Thaalibi he uses the word "opposites" (addad), that is. of euphemism (husn al-kinaya), to refer to dysphemisms. Having adduced examples for euphemisms, he turns to three instances that demonstrate their opposites:
The opposites of this among ugly expressions (wa-addad hadha min
qubh al-ibarat) are the words of Abu 1-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi [kamil]:

inni ala shaghafi bi-ma fi khumriha la-aiffu amma fi sarawilatiha

Indeed--despite my infatuation with what is behind her veils
[i.e., her face]--I am abstaining from what is in her trousers.

And the words of another [kamil]:

Tutina min rijlayki ma tuti 1-akuffu min al raghabi

You [fem. sg.] give from your legs the large gifts given by the
palms of the hands. (65) And the words of al-Radi lamenting
his mother [kamil]:

Kana rtikadi fi hashaki musabbiban rakda l-ghalayki fi ahshai

My agitation in your belly was causing the striking of the burning
grief over you in my belly. (66) For if you ponder these two lines,
you find them following the opposite tracks to Imru l-Qays's line.
(67) This is because Imru I-Qays expressed what should be euphemized,
namely, the copulation, doing so with the best euphemism; these two
expressed what should not be euphemized, and produced wordings that
must be euphemized." (68)

Note that al-Khafaji only comments on the last two examples, despite having given al-Mutanabbi's line prior to them (this line was discussed by him elsewhere as an example of an infelicitous euphemism, and, in fact, cannot be really seen as a dysphemism--see below). As asserted by al-Khafaji in disapproval, both the anonymous poet (or rather, poetaster. shucrar, as he is called in the narrative presented by al-Raghib) and al-Sharif al-Radi do the opposite of euphemizing from a rhetorical point of view. By self-censoring Imru l-Qays properly rendered the taboo idea of sexual intercourse with euphemisms, making it harmless to the audience. The anonymous poet, however, wanted to highlight Zubayda's liberality, assuming that she and the audience would bear in mind the hierarchical inferiority of legs to (right-hand) palms, as if to say "Big rewards granted by other patrons in the normal way from their right-hand palms are equal to what Zubayda grants from her legs; therefore, imagine how much bigger are the precious awards she grants from her right-hand palms." Had the poet used "left hand" (inferior to the right hand) instead of "legs," he would have achieved his goal with a common praise motif that had nothing to do with a taboo. His "originality" failed him, since the mention of women's legs had offensive sexual connotations, and so he was understood to ascribe promiscuity to this noble lady who then bestowed sexual--rather than financial--graces on her proteges. Therefore, the idea of unusual liberality that is not a taboo was (unnecessarily) articulated dysphemistically, which led to violation of a taboo by the poet. Similarly al-Sharif al-Radi intended to say that it was the very fact of his being his mother's son that caused his heavy grief over her demise. This idea is not a taboo, but his explicit "physiological" formulation referring to her pregnancy (and the inference of intercourse) and the indication of a body part connected to reproduction are, especially in the context of one's own mother. Hence, as in the prior case, al-Sharif al-Radi rendered his originally neutral or positive idea offensively as a dysphemism.

In sum, al-Khafaji characterizes the poetics of dysphemism as a negative presentation of a neutral or positive idea, contrasted to a neutral or positive presentation of a negative idea in euphemism. (69)

Remarkably, a third term that resembles the concept of orthophemism, namely, tasrih 'explicit expression', is used by al-Thaalibi in Kitab al-Kinaya. While myrrh is by no means understood as "uglification of the beautiful," like didd al-kinaya (dysphemism) its explicitness or straight type of expression is often taken as impolite and at times even offensive. Because of this the literary critics and rhetoricians often present tasrih as the antonym of kinaya (finding the latter more eloquent than the former),70 and not because it has its opposite effect, viz., uglification of the beautiful. In his first chapter (on euphemisms for women), al-Thaalibi lists sarha ("a great tree") among the euphemisms in use for women, and says:
  Such a euphemism only occurs for her whom they (i.e., the
  Bedouin) do not dare to name, or whose naming in explicit
  language is refrained from to avoid shame (yatadhammamun
  min al-tasrih bi ha), as the poet said [tawil]:
  Wa-inni la-akni an Qadhura bi-ghayriha wa-uribu ahyanan
  bi-hat fa-usarihu
  Indeed. I use for Qadhur names other than hers, and
  sometimes I express her name plainly and explicitly. (71)

This evidence shows that Bedouin society avoided calling a woman by her name, replacing it instead with a common euphemism. (72) Nonetheless, the verse attests to the fact that in certain (unspecified) contexts the name was mentioned explicitly. The opportunity to break this taboo of expressing a woman's name explicitly without sanctions being imposed was to do so in an uninhabited area, far from society. (73) We learn from al-Tawhidi that context mattered for the speaker's choice of using tasrih or kinaya. When he discusses eloquence (balagha), he refers to foreigners (dukhala) who lack the required native sensitivities to appreciate the effects of their employment of the language, and hence fail to achieve it. Among their linguistic shortcomings he notes that "explicit expression (tasrih) is desirable according to their judgment. but maybe a euphemism (kinaya) is more perfect." (74) In other words, the linguistic behavior of non-native speakers is flawed inter alia by their deficient ability to assess properly the social context that requires the application of censorship or the lack thereof.

Al-Khafaji elaborates on al-Tawhidi's mention of the importance of the proper occasion for the use of kinaya vs. tasrih, and adds details on the occasions themselves. Having stated that eloquent speech (fasaha, balagha) demands that a euphemism (husn al-kinaya) be used whenever explicit expression (tasrih) is improper, he adds.

We only said "whenever explicit expression (tasrih) is improper," because that [tasrih] befits the occasions of jest (hazl), licentiousness (mujan), and producing funny tales (nawadir). On these [occasions], euphemism (kinaya) is not desirable, as there is a [seemly] speech for every situation, and mode and style (fannan wa-usluban) for every genre (gharad). (75)

It may happen that a euphemism is understood as an explicit expression (i.e., the x-phemistic value of a given expression is regarded as an orthophemism by the audience although the author employed a euphemism); this is considered reprehensible by literary critics. Al-Thaalibi cites the case noted by the vizier and literary man al-Sabib Ibn Abbad (d. 385/995), who took exception to al-Mutanabbi's (d. 354/965) line cited above:
The poets would say "loincloths" (maazir) and use it
euphemistically for what is behind them (takni bi-ha amma
waraaha) to avoid expressing that whose mention is found
repugnant. Until
this naturally gifted poet (al-sha'ir al-matbu) went beyond to

explicit expression (tasrih), to which others were not rightly

guided. and said:

inni 'ala shaghafi bi-ma fi khumriha la-'a'iffu 'amma fi

sarawilatiha A lot of fornication is better than the

chastity of this poet. (76)

Trousers (sardwilat) then were worn on one's bare body under other garments, as underwear. (77) Note that for al-Sahib ('amma fi sarawilatiha is an explicit expression, improperly employed by al-Mutanabbi instead of the conventional euphemism mi'zar 'loincloth' (this exact expression to depict the genitals is discussed by al-Mutanabbi with various examples in his chapter on euphemisms for men's genitals). (78) Nonetheless, it is plain that "what is in her trousers" is a euphemism and not the real object directly expressed, viz., an orthophemism. Literary critics such as Abu Hilal al-'Askari and al-Khafaji did treat this expression as a euphemism (kinaya). (79) The former considered it a repulsive one (min shani' al-kinaya), and the latter wrote: "There is nothing more repugnant than the mention of trousers (sarawilat). I do not know a euphemism (kinaya)--I swear by God--such that explicit speech (tasrih) is more beautiful than it, nor do I know a description of chaste conduct such that doubts and suspicions are better than articulating it, save this euphemism of Abu Tayyib, and his chastity characterized him in this way." (80) Al-Khafaji's criticism of sarawilat appears in a section in which expressions used by renowned poets are found abominably vulgar ('emmiyya). Therefore, the reason for his strong negative reaction to this euphemism might be its vulgarity. Unlike other examples, however, he does not explicitly say so of al-Mutanabbi's line, and al-'Askari says nothing of its presumed vulgarity. The main point here is that a given expression, which is literally a euphemism. was regarded as an explicit expression by a critic (al-Sahib) and as a coarse--and hence infelicitous--euphemism by others. One wonders why a euphemism by literal meaning is degraded to denote explicitly what it originally stood for figuratively.

An answer to this question, given by the vizier, man of letters, and scholar Abu I-Fadl Ibn al-Amid (d. 360/970). is produced by al-Tawhidi:
[Abu l-Husayn Ahmad] Ibn Faris told me: The names of the genitals

(farj) and their multiplicity were mentioned in front of him [Ibn

al-'Amid], and one of those present said: "What did the Bedouin

('arab) aim at with their [the names'] multiplication notwithstanding

their ugliness?" He answered: "Since they consider the thing ugly,

they start euphemizing it (yaknuna 'anhu). With its becoming common,

the euphemism (kinaya) winds up in the category of the first name,

and so they move to another euphemism. Then, when it becomes

widespread as well, they see in it, in terms of ugliness, what they

euphemized because of it. On the basis of this, euphemisms multiplied,

while their goal was not to multiply them." (81)

The vizier's observation on the phenomenon of abundant nouns for genitals is discerning. Ibn al-'Amid was preceded, however, by the perceptive belletrist (d. 255/868), who remarked in Kitab al-Bursan on this very phenomenon apropos the discussion of the euphemism abrash (see below):
And if their use of euphemism (kinaya) lasts long, it becomes similar

to plain speech (/at). Falling under that is their euphemizing the

genitals (farj), saying: "He exposed his goods (mata') to us." Then

"goods" and "genitals" became equal. "Genitals," "anterior pudendum"

(qubul), and "posterior" (dubur) are [themselves] all euphemisms as

well. [more examples] They said euphemistically "So and so solicits"

(fulan yad'u ila nafsihi), and when that lasted long

and occurred often, it occupied the place of the first [the taboo

term] as to ugliness. They euphemized -such and such a woman

fornicated" (zanat fulana) by "she coughed" (qahabat), and quhab

means "coughing" (su'al). ... It was as if they were virtually

placing "she coughed" (sa'alat) instead of "she fornicated"

(zanat), and when that lasted a long time, their saying

qahabat became uglier than their saying zanat. (82)

The phenomenon of euphemism degradation described by the vizier and al-Jahiz is similar to the self-proclaimed "Allan-Burridge Law of Semantic Change: Bad connotations drive out good." (83) According to Allan and Burridge, the short life and constant degeneration of euphemisms is caused by the preponderance of their taboo sense over the non-taboo sense. Therefore, it is very often the case that the non-taboo sense of a euphemism fades, and the meaning narrows to the taboo sense alone, as in the example they provide of "undertaker" becoming "funeral director." (84) The authors present extra-linguistic scientific evidence (psychological, physiological, and neurological) supporting the view that taboo terms are the most emotionally evocative of all language expressions. This evidence goes a long way toward explaining the general tendency for any derogatory or unfavorable denotation or connotation within a language expression to dominate the interpretation of its immediate context. (85)

The scientific knowledge and technological tools that yielded this supporting extra-linguistic evidence were not available at the time of al-jahiz and Ibn al-'Amid, whose insights were not supported by anything but circumstantial evidence (i.e., that euphemisms degrade once gaining wide currency). What matters here is that both the indigenous tradition and modern linguistic scholarship explain in a similar way what turns out to be a linguistic phenomenon relevant to more than one culture. Therefore, it is fairly safe to assume that the reason al-Sahib considered al-Mutanabbi's sarawilatiha an explicit expression and other critics regarded it as an infelicitous euphemism is that it lost its linguistic legitimacy as a euphemism.


According to Allan and Burridge, there are basically two ways in which taboo and the consequent censoring of language lead to the creation of new euphemistic expressions: one, a changed form for the tabooed expression, and two, figurative language sparked by perceptions of and conceptions about the denotatum (e.g., death). (86)

(1) For changed form consider the following extract:

[The people of Baghdad] euphemize someone's abusing someone else "0 fornicator!" by saying "he abused him with zay." (87)

The euphemism of the letter zay, the first letter of the taboo term zanin 'fornicator', is a rare example in al-Tha'alibi's work of changed form. Zig is a case of clipping. "the reduction of a word to one of its parts." (88) Another instance of changed form is abrash (a horse marked by colored specks) for abras 'leper'. (89) Euphemizing the taboo term abras, abrash is a case of remodeling. namely, the matching of the start or end of a "dispreferred" term with the rest of a semantically unrelated word (or a nonsensical one). In English "Gee whiz" is a remodeling of Jeeze or Jesus, "Crust" or "Crumbs" of Christ, "Gosh" or "Golly" of God, "basket" of bastard, and "shoot" of shit. (90) An example of remodeling is the expression maqlub al-kayn 'inversion of kayn. as a euphemism for nayk 'sexual intercourse'. (91) We find evidence in a Hanafi legal work that in the eleventh/seventeenth century maqlub al-kayn had already degenerated as a euphemism and was replaced by the expression maqlub al-kinaya to signify nayk. (92) Whereas both remodeled expressions, maqlub al-kayn and maqlub al-kinaya, contain the word maqlub, which alludes to the desired meaning, fay a "overflowing water or river" (or 'abundance') is a stand-alone remodeling that euphemizes hayd 'menstruation'. (93)

Remarkably the letter zay and abrash are the only cases of changed forms of taboo terms that seem to exist in al-Tha'alibi's work. The evidence adduced by al-Tha'alibi displays an overwhelming preference of language users for figurative euphemisms over those created through formal change. This tendency is reflected in Modern Standard Arabic as well (but not in the dialects), as shown by Farghal. (94)

(2) Figurative language is the normative way of euphemism generation found in our medieval sources. In what follows I will present examples of euphemisms couched in figurative language of different types. It will be possible to observe that rhetorically speaking many of these euphemisms, although described as kinayat in the sources, do not agree with the technical definition of kinaya made by Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani: nor do they agree with Ibn al-Athir's later substantial formulation: an expression from which meaning can be produced by way of proper and/or tropical sense. E.g., both "so-and-so prefers hunting to fishing" (fulanun yu'aththiru .sayda 1-barri 'ala saydi 1-bahr) and "so-and-so opts for gazelles and not fish" (fulanun yaqulu bi-l-ziba'i wa-la yaqulu bi-l-samak) are euphemisms for a man who is sexually interested in boys and not women.95 They are metaphoric expressions that, as in English, are derived from the perceived similarity between the vagina and fish, which has no parallel in men.96 According to 'Abd al-Qahir, similarity is never the relationship underlying kinaya. Moreover, the meaning of these examples can be comprehended in the expected way only tropically and not properly, and as such they flout Ibn al-AthIr's definition entailing disjunctive and conjunctive senses (unlike "he is rich in ashes of the cooking-pot," the oftquoted example for a hospitable man).

Due to the fact that many euphemisms considered kinayat by earlier critics do not agree with later technical definitions of kinaya and are indeed molded in a variety of tropes, a systematic approach to figurative language is a requisite for classification. Roman Jakobson's approach (inspired by Saussurian structural linguistics) focuses on metaphor and metonymy as the two basic tropes representing, respectively, the two axes of selection and combination in language. I found it suitable for classification mainly because, like 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani and his followers in the indigenous Arabic rhetorical tradition, it posits the similarity and contiguity relationships between signs as underlying all tropes:

Metaphor. Jakobson views metaphor as a product of a selection process between different linguistic signs and the substitution of one by another, based on a relation of similarity, e.g., den for hut. He links it with Saussure's concept of associative relations, commonly known as "paradigmatic," between linguistic signs connected by various degrees of similarity, fluctuating between the equivalence of synonyms and the common core of antonyms. (97) Some examples of metaphoric euphemisms are hurr 'free' for an apostate (mulhid), because "he has come out of the law's (shari'a) noose." This metaphor is built on the imaginary presumption that just like the noose that restricts sheep and goats, (98) the law's "noose" exercises tight control over the believers' lives, emphasizing its demanding nature in real life. Likewise, speaking of an apostate the people of Baghdad say "so-and-so has crossed" (qad 'abara), meaning that "he has crossed the bridge of Islam." (99) As with the law's "noose," there is no actual bridge to cross to leave Islam's territory for apostasy. These two metaphors are analogy-based. (100) In medical jargon "water" (ma') for urine (bawl) is another type of metaphor, (101) this time the "ruby"-for-"lip" kind based on simile, (102) for urine is like water in terms of fluidity. Also based on simile are metaphoric euphemisms for tabooed human organs, which--I believe--are curious enough to warrant a longer discussion here.

The first type is based on the graphic representation of letters. In his chapter Fi l-kinaya 'an al-liwat wa-shurut ahlihi (On Speaking Euphemistically of Pederasty and the Conditions of Its People), al-Tha'alibi writes: "If a man prefers boys (ghilman) and not women, it is said [among other euphemisms] ... so and so loves the tram and hates the sad." (103) The graphic signs of the mim and sad are simile-based metaphoric euphemisms for the anus and vagina, respectively. Likewise, the graphic sign of the lam could be employed as a simile-based metaphoric euphemism for the penis, as in the following line of Abu Nuwas [sari']:
Fa-qultu haki l-ayra fa-stadkhili

Fa-adkhalat lamiya fi sadiha

I then said. "Here is the penis. insert it!"

And she brought my lam into her ad. (104)

Here Abu Nuwas does not appear to use lam as a euphemism,

but rather for stylistic purposes as a playful trope. This

is because he mentions penis (ayr) explicitly in the first

hemistich, and, in addition, because of the poem's being a

satire, whose conventions allow for obscenities to be included.

Yet its use alongside sad, whose euphemistic function has been

mentioned, points to the probable euphemistic origin of the

figure and to its functional possibilities.

The second type is based on the formal language of gesture, as in what follows:

The most innovative (abda') (105) of what I have heard [composed] on the motif (ma'na) of tightness and wideness with the most beautiful euphemism (kinaya) and most delicate expression is that which Abu Nasr Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Maghlisi recited to me. He said, "Barakawayh al-Zanjani recited to me what he composed on his boy (ghulamihi) Yusuf [tawil]:
Mada Yusufun 'anna bi-tis'ina dirhaman

wa-'ada wa-thulthu 1-mali fi kaffi Yusufi

Fa-kayfa yurajja ba'da hadha salahuhu

wa-qad da'a thultha malihi fi l-tasarrufi

Yusuf left us with ninety dirhams, and returned with one-third

of the money in his palm; How, then, can his recovery be hoped

for, with two-thirds of his money lost in the misfortune? (106)

[The poet] speaks euphemistically of his [Yusuf's] having been in the tightness of ninety in dactylonomy and becoming thirty in dactylonomy (fi diqi 'aqdi tis'ina fa-sara fi sa'ati 'aqdi thalathin). Among the euphemisms for this euphemism are the words of Abu Sa'd b. Dust [wafir]:
A-tusmi'uni kalaman am kilainan

wa-alqa min-ka ghillan aw ghulama

Fa-ya la-ka min ghazalin sara qirdan

wa-sadin fi l-kitabati 'ada lama

Will you let me hear words or wounds? And shall

I encounter from you rancor or a boy? 0, what a

gazelle that turned into a monkey, and a sad in

writing that became a lam. 'This isi because

the numerical value of .cad is ninety and that

of lam is thirty. (107)

Dactylonomy (hisab al-'aqd) is finger-counting, or more precisely, "the art of expressing numbers by the position of the fingers." The number ninety is signified "by placing the tip of the forefinger on the base of the thumb," and thirty is signified "by putting together the tips of the thumb and the forefinger." (108) The rather tight and circular gesture made by the signification of number ninety is the source of its metaphoric sense as "anus" (ist), attested to in Abu Hilal al-'Askari's Jamharat al-amthal: wa-umm tis'in ... al-ist. (109) In the first poem, therefore, the boy Yusuf is depicted as starting off "narrow" in his anus but ending up "wide" (like the wide quasi-circular gesture of thirty), due to his being the passive partner in homosexual intercourse. The second poem uses cleverly a secondary euphemism (al-kinaya 'an hadhihi 1-kinaya) to refer to the (devaluating) process undergone by the unnamed boy, which is identical to that of Yusuf in the first poem: sad's numerical value (110) is ninety, thus ninety in dactylonomy, thus (narrow) anus; the numerical value of lam, is thirty. thus thirty in dactylonomy, thus widened anus. It is the apparent innocence of the latter euphemism that led al-Thacillibi to highlight its "obscenity of meaning and chastity of expression" (fuhsh al-ma'na wa-taharat al-lafz), (111) "A sad in writing that became a lam" is an intricate conceit of pronounced mannerist character given the fact that it is inspired by an earlier motif (ninety and thirty as wide and narrow anus, respectively) and not by visible reality. In addition, its riddle-like character expects its audience to be well versed in the history of Arabic poetic motifs in order to "decipher" and appreciate it. (112)

Metonymy. According to Jakobson, the only other basic rhetorical figure besides metaphor is metonymy, based on contiguity; here a sign that usually occurs together with another may be used instead of the latter, e.g., "heaven" for "God." Jakobson associates it with Saussure's linguistic relationship of combination, dubbed by the latter "syntagmatic," which deals with linguistic units that combine to form a sequence. (113) Among the metonymic euphemisms in al-Kinaya are "loincloths" (ma'azir) for "genitals" (p. 21); "his back cracked" (tafarqa'a zahruhu) for "he farted"; "clean as to his kitchen" (nazif al-matbakh), "unsoiled as to his cooking pot" (naqi 1-qidr), and "clean as to his dinner table's napkin" (nazif mandil al-khuwan) for "miser" (p. 99); -paucity of large rats" (qillat al-jirdhan) for "poverty" (p. 100). (114) All these euphemisms are built on the contiguous relationships between two objects or between a character and the setting in space and time.

Synecdoche. Like metonymy, synecdoche is founded on the syntagmatic relationship of contiguity, but it consists of a part standing for the whole (pars pro toto), like "bare shoulders" for a woman to whom this feature belongs. (115) Conversely, in this rhetorical figure a particular term may be also substituted by a general term, material or conceptual. (116) "His fingertips became yellow" (isfarrat anamiluhu) stands for a dead man, and is explained as "the fingertips becoming yellow is among the properties of the dead, hence they euphemized death by one of its properties." (117) In opposition to that, "nature" (tabi'a) for "feces" (hadath). in medical jargon, applies the general term "nature" for (only) one particular function of the human nature. (118)

Antithesis. In the same way as metaphor antithesis is the outcome of selection and substitution of a given sign by another to which it is related paradigmatically by similarity. (119) E.g., "unhurt" (salim) for a person bitten by a snake or scorpion (ladigh); "seeing" (ba.yir) for a blind person (dma); "the father of he'll-live" (Abu Yahya) for "the angel of death" (malak al-mawt); (120) "perfumer" ((agar) for "garbage collector" (kanntis); (121) "one-eyed" (a'war) for "raven" (ghurab, a sharp-sighted and inauspicious bird whose harm is feared); "his locks of hair are dragged along" (dhawa'ibuhu tanjarr) for a bald man (aqra') is a popular antonymic euphemism (Ii-l-'amma kinnayat ma'kusa) said -in amusement"; (122) "sharpness of intellect" (*Ida) for "ignorance" is an antonymic (or near-antonymic) euphemism used by religious scholars ('ulama'). (123)

Understatement. In this rhetorical trope based on similarity between two signs connected paradigmatically, one substitutes the other by toning down its significance. For example, "acting moderately" (muqtasid) for a miser: (124) "veiled" (mahjub) for a blind person; (125) "the prince," "your dear one," or "the boy" is "blood-letting" (muftafid) for a menstruating worn-an. (126) Here, menstruation, a taboo, is played down to blood-letting.

Overstatement. Although identical to understatement from a rhetorical point of view, i.e., based on similarity one sign is substituted by another to which it is connected paradigmatically, overstatement overrates the significance of the replacement through hyperbole. E.g., "so-and-so is carried on the black [horse]" (fulanun mahmulun mahulun 'ala l- adham) for one's being shackled; (127) "the successor of [the prophet] al-Khidr" (khalifat al-Khidr) for an itinerant beggar, because of the Qur'anic narrative of al-Khidr's wandering and his asking for food; (128) "so-and-so joins together the dabb (the thorn-tailed lizard) and the whale- (fulanun yu'allifu baya l-dabbi wa-l-nun) for a skillful and clever pimp (hadhiqun bi-l-qiyada), i.e., the pimp is euphemized hyperbolically as a master matchmaker successful at creating unlikely matches. 129

Circumlocution. Founded on the syntagmatic relationship of contiguity, circumlocution works similarly to metonymy, viz., a sign that occurs together with another stands for it. Yet it differs from metonymy by its roundabout and rather long phrasing of the contiguous object, concept, or characteristic, which usually constitutes a syntactically valid sentence. Examples are "his attribute is not fully inflected" (na'tuhu la yansarifu) for a fool (ahmaq), (130) springing from the fact that forms in the category af'al (such as ahmaq) are diptotes; "he is of the judge's upbringing" (huwa min tarbiyat al-qadi) and "[he is] among the Prophet's proteges" (min 1-nabi) for a foundling, the former stemming from the judge's responsibility to undertake the foundling's upbringing relying on endowments, and the latter based on the tzadith in which the Prophet says, "I am the guardian of those who have no guardian" (and mawld man Id mawld lahu); (131) and "so-and-so has a need which cannot be satisfied by another person" (bi-fulanin hajatun la yaqdiha ghayruh) for defecating (qada' al-haja, lit. satisfying a need). (132)

Finally, it is possible for a euphemism to be created both by a change of form in the taboo term and in figurative language. The euphemism abrash for abras, discussed above as a case of remodeling, can--and I believe should--be also understood as an understatement, because the pathological discoloration of leprosy is toned down to the realm of the merely aesthetic. Conversely, the remodeled expression fax/ euphemizing hayd acts at the same time as a figurative overstatement of the menstrual flow.


I have sought to explore the relation between taboo in society and euphemism in the Arabic language as reflected in works mostly composed in the eastern Islamic world (Syria, Iraq, and greater Iran) of the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries. These spatial and temporal qualifications, however, have little to do with the writers whose works I examined. The diverse materials they present are drawn from the pre-Islamic era up to their own time and from different geographic regions and social settings. This apparent mishmash stems from a unified vision of an Arabophone culture in which a line by an Arabian pre-Islamic poet may be as pertinent as a quick repartee by a contemporary wit in Nishapur. As is commonly known, this is the approach of most adab works, whose primary goal is didactic, viz., to make materials from various times, places, and social settings accessible to the Arabophone elite, on condition that they are judged as valuable, or at least relevant, to this contemporary group from a cultural point of view. (133) Hence, the prescriptive dimension of these works, although camouflaged by the often entertaining style of presentation, intends to mold or reaffirm the cultural worldview of the elite person with the literary materials he is equipped with. This is exactly why the adab anthologies and works used in this research are clearly indicative of societal taboos. (134)

In the present context it is important to emphasize that the materials introduced in our sources show that the change in terms of paramount taboos connected to sex, bodily functions and effluvia., sickness, and death since pre-Islamic times to the period in question has not been great. The diversity of euphemisms adduced in our sources, created in different times and places to express these taboos safely, bears evidence to their relevance at the time the authors composed their works. We can nevertheless trace nuances of change in sexual taboos. No pre-Islamic evidence of euphemisms for homoerotic taboos is adduced by al-Tha'alibi (unlike taboos related to women); the bulk of homoerotic euphemisms belongs to the 'Abbasid period, and may possibly (although not necessarily) suggest that this nuance was more prominent in the culture of the latter period. The taboo themes we encountered are frequently found among many other human groups; yet a striking exception is the lack of euphemisms for the sacred, and especially the name of God, occurring in numerous other cultures.

Euphemism was rendered by the Arabic kinaya, although kintiya was not always exclusively limited to this sense. Starting in the fifth/eleventh century, kinaya gradually acquired a full-fledged technical meaning as a rhetorical concept among literary critics and rhetoricians. That came at the expense of its predominant loose lexicographical significance of "indirect speech," which in practice usually functioned as "euphemism" without being associated with a distinct rhetorical process or trope. The key figure in this development was 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani. Yet, as we saw, despite his important contribution to the discussion he neglected to address the crucial question of kineiya's connection to tropical speech (majaz), and left it ambiguous. This connection was then thoughtfully described and analyzed by piya' al-Din Ibn al-Athir nearly two centuries later.

We saw that solely kinayat formulated as metonymy and its sister tropes, based on the syntagmatic relationship of contiguity, agreed with Ibn al-Athir's definition. This leaves out kinayat formulated as metaphor and its sister tropes, based on the paradigmatic relationship of similarity. The insight of Jalcobson (derived from Saussure) was necessary to grasp analytically what makes the former type (and not the latter) agree with Ibn al-Athir's significant technical definition of kinaya: they all involve combination and contexture, and not selection and substitution which void the conjunctive criterion.
It has come to my knowledge that a superintendent of the

post and intelligence (ba'd ashab al-barid) in Nishapar

wrote to the court in Bukhara informing what had happened

between one of its leaders and a Turkish general. In

recounting it he said, "And he said to him: you rent-boy

(ya mu'ajar)!" When the vizier at the time looked at this

word in his letter, he disapproved of it and found it

distressing, and he dismissed the superintendent from his work.

When the superintendent arrived in Bukhara and was in his

presence, the vizier reproached and upbraided him for that fault.

He said to him, "Why did you not guard the sultan's court from

the likes of that dirty word (lafza qadhi'a)?" He answered,

"May God support the exalted shaykh! What should I have written,

then, while you had ordered [mel to transmit the information

correctly?" He said, "Were you incapable--woe to you!--of

euphemizing it an takni 'anha), and saying 'he abused him

by what youths (ahdath) are abused', or [to use some other]

words that render its meaning?!"

Classical and post-classical Arabic show an overwhelming preference for figurative language over change of form (or semantic over phonological) as their generation mechanism for kinayat. This fact contributes to the playfulness of many euphemisms, which attest to the resourcefulness and linguistic skill of their creators.

In Arabic, too, euphemism has been connected to orthophemism and dysphemism as a conceptual set: kinaya, tasrih, didd al-kinaya, respectively. The short life of most euphemisms and the process of euphemism degradation--degeneration into dysphemisms and orthophemisms through contamination by the taboo topic and then replacement by other euphemisms--was already observed in the third/ninth century by al-,144. Al-Jabi illus-trated this process nicely with the verb qatiabat ('she coughed'), which was used euphemistically for zanat ('she fornicated') but then degraded to a dysphemism ("qahabat became uglier than ... zanat"). Since al-Jabi anticipated the law of semantic change more than a thousand years before the two linguists Allan and Burridge named it after themselves, it might not be a bad idea to rename it the "Al-Jabi? Law of Semantic Change: Bad connotations drive out good."

Author's note: I wish to thank Woltbart Heinrichs for his kindness in reading an earlier draft of this article and for his valuable comments and corrections. I am also grateful to Geert Jan van Gelder who made beneficial remarks, suggestions, and corrections. Needless to say, I alone am responsible for any of its shortcomings.

(1.) Keith Allan and Kate Burridge, Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), 11, 27.

(2.) Ibid.. 1-28, 29, 33.

(3.) Keith Allan and Kate Burridge, Euphemism and Dysphemism: Language Used as Shield and Weapon (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), Ii.

(4.) In Modern Standard Arabic, "euphemism" is rendered as lutf al-ta'bir (lit, polite expression). See Munir al-Ba'albaki, al-Mawrid: Qamus inklizi 'arabi (Beirut: Dar al-'Ilm li-l-Malayin. 1996. 1967), 322.

(5.) On his life and works, see Encyclopaedia of Islam. new ed. (henceforth, E12). s.v. al-Tha'alibi, Abu Mansur 'Abd al-Malik (E. K. Rowson) (Leiden: Brill, 1960-2005); a detailed study of his oeuvre is Bilal Orfali, "The Works of Abu Mansur al-Tha'alibi (350-429/961-1039)," Journal of Arabic Literature 40 (2009): 273-318.

(6.) Al-Tha'alibi, Kitab al-Kinaya wa-l-ta'rid, ed. Usama al-Buhayri (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 1997), 3-6.

(7.) E12, s.v. [Kh.sup.w]arazm-Shahs (C. E. Bosworth).

(8.) On the development of the term, see Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, ed. Kees Versteegh et al. (henceforth, EALL), s.v. Kinaya (Joseph Dichy) (Leiden: Brill. 2006-2009), 2: 578; Bashir Kahil, al-Kinaya fi l-balagha l-'arablyya (Cairo: Maktabat al-Adab, 2004).

(9.) See Yasuf b. Abi Bakr al-Sakkaki, Kitab Miftah al-'ulum (Cairo, n.d.), 213-19; al-Khatib al-Qazwini (d. 739/1338), al-Idah fi 'ulum al-balagha, ed. Muhammad Khafaji (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, 1975), 456-67: ibid., ed. Ibrahim Shams al-Din (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 2003), 241-50; Sa'd al-Din al-Taftuzani (d. 793/1390). Mukhtasar al-sa'd: Sharh talkhis kitab miftah al-'ulam, ed. 'Abd al-Hamid Hindawi (Sayda: al-Maktaba l-'Asriyya, 2003), 374-82; idem, [al-Sharh] al-Mutawwal 'ala l-talkhis (Istanbul, 1330/1912), 407-16; Sharaf al-Din Husayn al-Tibi (d. 743/1343), Kitab al-Tibyan fi 'ilm al-ma'ani wa-l-badai'. ed. Hadi (Beirut: 'Alam al-Kutub, 1987), 261-81 (the section on kinaya in this work is somewhat richer in illustrative examples than the others in this tradition).

(10.) Joseph Dichy (EALL, s.v. Kinaya) focuses meticulously on kinaya and its development as a rhetorical concept, without, however, due attention to its sociolinguistic function as euphemism. Charles Pellat (E12, s.v. Kinaya) does touch on important linguistic and social aspects of kinaya as euphemism, but his encyclopedia entry still leaves much to say about the subject. Bashir Kahn (al-Kinaya fi l-balagha l-'arahiyya) addresses kinaya as a rhetorical concept in detail throughout its history, but his treatment of its euphemistic function is severely lacking. Most importantly, he fails to approach analytically the relation between taboo, as societal proscription of certain behaviors, and euphemism. Instead he considers (p. 305) the alleged moral deterioration of the fourth/tenth century as the background for euphemisms (kinayai) "becoming" the preferred mode of expression for the grave "moral problems" in contemporary 'Abbasid society. He mistakenly assumes that seemingly compromised morality in a given era necessitates euphemisms (or increases their relevance), and neglects to appreciate the fundamental function of euphemism to shield from taboo topics in every conceivable human society regardless of time and place. This may be shown by the attested significant existence of euphemisms in earlier (and supposedly morally superior) periods of Islam, seen inter alia in the Qur'an and O&M, many of which are pointed to by Kahil himself. Mohammad Farghal's ("Euphemism in Arabic: A Gricean Interpretation," Anthropological Linguistics 37 [1995]: 366-78) approach to euphemism as a pragmatic mechanism is indeed sensitive to its sociolinguistic function, but he concentrates on Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Jordanian Arabic; in his EALL entry, "Euphemism." Farghal reiterates his findings, and in addition turns to euphemism in classical Arabic. His following observation (relying, apparently, only on al-'Askari's Kitab al-Sina'atayn) is, unfortunately, far from being exact: "The lack of a clear treatment of euphemism in medieval rhetoric comes as a great surprise, especially for those who are aware of the striking breadth and depth of this discipline in Medieval Arabic linguistics." It may be due to Farghal's modern linguistic perspective that he looked for a clear-cut concept comparable to the Western "euphemism.- In fact, the medieval Arabic critics and rhetoricians did treat euphemism, and in many cases insightfully so, but addressed it through the lens of the more general term kinaya. which does not necessarily refer to "euphemism." Lamentably. Farghal does not mention kinaya at all in his entry.

(11.) Wa-l-kinayatu an tatakallama bi-shay'in wa-turida ghayrahu. Wa-kana 'an al-amri bi-ghayrihi yakni kinayatan ya'ni idha takallama bi-ghayrihi mimma yustadallu 'alaybi nahwu l-rafathi wa-l-gha'iti wa-nahwihi (Lisan al-'arab, ed. 'Abd Allah al-Kabir et al. [Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif. 1981]. ad k-n-y).

(12.) Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, ed. Julie Scott Meisami and Paul Starkey (henceforth, EAL), s.v. 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani (W. Heinrichs) (London: Routledge, 1998).

(13.) 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Dala'il al-i'jaz, ed. Mahmud Shakir (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 1984), 66.

(14.) Ibid., 306-7; other kinaya examples on pp. 307-14.

(15.) Ibid., 70-72, 306, 430, 444. For the early development of majaz and its pairing with haqiqa, see Wolfhart Heinrichs, "On the Genesis of the haqiqa-majaz Dichotomy," Stadia Islamica 59 (1984): 111-40.

(16.) Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Dalail. 71-73.447-48 (source of quotation).

(17.) Ibid., 262-63. Abd al-Qahir discusses kinaya, analyzes the way it is created and comprehended, and adduces many poetic examples on pp. 306-14.

(18.) For instance, when Abd al-Qahir (ibid., 66-67) discusses the use of a certain expression whose intended meaning is other than its explicit meaning, he states that it embraces in most cases "two things: kinaya and majaz." Istria ra and tamthil--based on the same principle underlying istgara--are seen as the foremost representatives of majaz. In Asrar al-balagha (ed. H. Ritter [Beirut: Dar al-Masira, 1983, 11954], 368), he clearly says that "rnajaz is more general than istgara, and ... that every istiara is majaz, but not every majaz is istrara."

(19.) Abd al-qahir al-lurjani, Asrar. 325-26, 356-58, 365. I am limiting this brief account of majaz to majaz lughawi ('lexical trope'), which is pertinent to our discussion. (Abd al-Qahir identifies another type of majetz that he calls nzajazagli ('mental trope'). The latter is created in a sentence whose words are used properly but the predication is tropical (ibid., 376-83). Abd al-Whir opts not to discuss majaz thoroughly in Dated, 66-67, since he has done it elsewhere. He only mentions his disapproval of the common wrong idea that it means "transference" (nag!), and limits his discussion to metaphor and analogy in the way of metaphor (al-tamthil ala hadd al-istiara), the two foremost representatives of majaz.

(20.) Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjanl, Dalail 439-42.

(21.) The equivocal rhetorical status of kinaya is observable also in (Abd al-Qahir's words (ibid., 393), "that is because these meanings, which are istiara, kinaya, tamthil, and the remaining types of majaz aside from them. ..." which lead one to think that the author considers kinaya a type of majaz.

(22.) Kamal Abu Deeb, Al-Jurjani's Theory of Poetic Imagery (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1979). 164-65; see also 75-81, 165-67.

(23.) (Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Asrar, 42, 44 (discussing the two types of istiara: kana bi-l-asadi an Zaydin wa-ana bihi Zaydan...; laysa hunaka musharun ilayhi yakanu l-zimamu kinayatan anhu), 238, 315-16.

(24.) Abu Deeb, Al-Jurjani's Theory, 165.

(25.) Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Asrar, 376. A stricter literal translation of tashbih may be "comparison"; likewise, sila wa-mulabasa 'contiguity' may be rendered more literally as "connection and concomitance." In both cases, however, the more literal translation might obfuscate Abd al-Qahir's intended meanings, as inferred from this and other related contexts.

(26.) Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Dalail, 293.

(27.) Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Asrar, 325-27, 365, 368-74: the comment by Abu Deeb (Al-Jurjani's Theory. 166, see also 167 n. 116) that according to (Abd al-Qahir "apart from kinaya, all forms of the image originate in the act of' similizing" is therefore incorrect. It is also strange in that he later addresses Abd al-Qiihir's recognition of similarity and contiguity as two fundamentally different relations in majaz (p. 190).

(28.) Al-Qazwini, al-Idah, ed. Shams al-Din, 205-6, dividing majaz into "loose trope," based on contiguity (mulabasa), and metaphor (istiara), established on similarity (tashbih); al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Jurjani, al-Hashiya ala l-mutawwal, ed. Rashid Aradi (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 2007), 357.

(29.) For al-Sakkaki (Miftah, 402-3), kinaya means "to refrain from mentioning something explicitly in favor of mentioning what it implies (ma yalzamuhu) [...] as in the expression so-and-so is long of baldric', from which one proceeds to the original sense (ma huwa malzamuhu). viz., 'high stature'." The difference between kinaya and majac, according to him, is twofold: (1) with kinaya it is possible to indicate the explicit meaning of the expression without applying interpretation to it. For instance, in saying that a certain woman is a late morning sleeper, one could mean that she gets up late in the morning and not that she leads a life of luxury. In contrast, one cannot use majaz and intend its explicit meaning--"there is a lion in the public bath" cannot possibly mean a real lion, as context restricts the meaning to "a brave man"; (2) with kinaya. the rhetorical process involved is from the implied sense (lazim) to the original sense (malzum, the conventional meaning), whereas with majaz it is mm al-malzum ila l-lazim; cf. al-Qazwini, al-Idah, ed. Shams al-Din, 241-42; al-Taftazani, al-Mutawwal, 407-9.

(30.) EALL, s.v. Kinaya (Dichy).

(31.) EALL. s.v. Kinaya (Dichy). Dichy goes on to explain that the Quranic phrase is associated with ritual washing, which can be required when "touching" is meant either conjunctively or disjunctively. Ibn al-Athir's definition, as translated by Dichy, is from al-Mathal al-sair fi adab al-katib wa-l-shdir, ed. Muhammad Abd al-Hamid (Cairo: Mustafa l-Babi l-Halabi, 1939), 2: 193 (the section in question is on al-kinaya wa-l-tarid). For various Qur'anic kthayat, see Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi 'ulum al-Quran (Medina: Majmac al-Malik Fahd. 1426/2005), 4: 1556-64. According to al-Suyuti (ibid., 1553, 1556), those who denied the existence of majaz in the Qur'an denied the existence of kinayat in it as well, because they considered it majaz.

(32.) Ibn al-Athir, al-Mathal al-sair, ed. Ahmad al-Hufi and Badawi Tabana (Cairo: Dar Nahdat Misr [1959-65]), 3: 54-55, 57, 63.

(33.) Ibn Faris, al-Sahibi fi fiqh al-lugha l-'arabiyya, ed. Hasan Basaj (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1997). 200-3. The first sense of kinaya (p. 200) is "when something is named indirectly, and mentioned in a name other than it to beautify the expression or out of respect to the signified (an yukna 'an al-shay'i fa-yudhkara bi-ghayri smihi tahsinan li-l-lafzi aw ikraman li-l-madhkur)."

(34.) Ibid., 201: also Ibn Rashiq al-Qayrawani (d. 456 or 463/1063 or 1071). al-'Umda fi mahasin al-shi'r wa-adabihi, ed. Muhammad 'Ata (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 2001). 1: 315 (discussed under bab al-ishara). Before Ibn Faris and Ibn Rashiq, the philologist and grammarian al-Mubarrad (d. ca. 285/898) (al-Kamil. ed. Muhammad al-Dali [Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risala, 19971 2: 855-58, see also 2: 656-57) considered the kunya a type of kinaya whose purpose is to show deference and aggrandize (al-tafkhim wa-l-ta'zim). Another type is used for mystification and concealment (al-ta'miya wa-l-taghtiya), but "the most beautiful" one among the three types of kinaya is that used to avoid obscenities (al-raghbatu 'an a1-lafzi l-khasisi 1-mufhishi ila ma yadullu 'ala ma'nahu min ghayrihi).

(35.) Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, tr. Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966, 11959), 15-17.

(36.) Al-'Askari. Kitab al-Sina'atayn: al-Kitaba wa-l-shi'r, ed. 'Ali al-Bajawi and Muhammad Ibrahim, 2nd ed. (Cairo: 'Isa 1-Babi 1-Halabi, 1971), 381. Al-'Anbari is Nashib b. Bashama al-'Anbari l-A'war, who was held in pre-Islamic times as a prisoner by Qays b. Tha'laba and wanted to warn his tribe about an imminent attack without his captors being aware. A longer and different version of this story is narrated by Abu 'Ubayda Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna, Kitab Ayyam al-'arab qabla l-islam, ed. 'Adil al-Bayati (Beirut: 'Alam al-Kutub. 1987), 2: 418-28 (yawm al-waqit). Al-Tha'alibi (al-Kinaya. 161-62) presents a version of this story in his chapter Fi l-ta'rid bi-l-fi'l, which demonstrates again that in his period kinaya and ta'rid were still not well demarcated.

(37.) Ibn al-Athir, al-Mathal al-sa'ir. ed. 'Abd al-Hamid, 2: 215: ed. al-Hufi and Tabana, 3: 75. The author does not disclose whether he himself read these foreign language sources or relied on human intermediaries or translations.

(38.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 5.

(39.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba' wa-isharat al-bulagha', ed. Mahmud al-Qattan (Cairo: al-Hay'a 1-Misriyya 1-'Amma li-l-Kitab, 2003), 34-35. Interestingly, the author claims precedence in composing a work of this kind, wholly dedicated to euphemisms and allusions, just as al-Tha'alibi did: being roughly twice as long. Ahmad al-Jurjani's work provides more evidence than al-Tha'alibi's. The former is prone to digressions, especially on grammatical, lexicographical. and rhetorical aspects, and indeed shows more interest, knowledge, and skill in treating these aspects than al-Tha'alibi. These differences are well illustrated in the thematically identical chapters on inauspicious expressions: al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 148-50, and Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udabu', 185-203. The relatively little information we have on Ahmad al-Jurjani's life is brought together by the editor (ibid., 7-11).

(40.) Ahmad al-Jurjani. Kinayat al-udaba', 41.

(41.) "A name is a spoken sound significant by convention ... I say 'by convention' because no name is a name naturally but only when it has become a symbol" (Aristotle, De Interpretatione, in The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes [Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 19841, 1: 25 [16a27, 16a30]): Saussure, Course in General linguistics, 67-70. 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani (Asrar, 323) sharply criticized the idea that a thing could gain a positive or negative value through an expression, an audible sound (lafz huwa sawt masmu'), which is only a sign ('alama) for it.

(42.) It is explicated thus by Allan and Burridge (Forbidden Words, 43-44; see also 40-41, 241-42): "Taboo terms are classified as dysphemistic because of a belief, be it ever so vague, that their form reflects the essential nature of the taboo topics they denote. This is exactly why the terms themselves are often said to be unpleasant or ugly sounding; why the SW) [sex, micturition, defecation. EN] words among them are miscalled 'dirty words'."

(43.) Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 15-16, 38-39. 126-27: Keith Allan, "The Pragmatics of Connotation." Journal of Pragmatics 39 (2007): 1055.

(44.) Q 2:224 reads wa-la tajalu llaha urdatan li-aymanikum an tabarru wa-tattaqu wa-tuslihu bayna l-nasi wa-llahu samiunalim. Based on the interpretation in question, presented by many exegetes alongside other possibilities to understand this verse. it means "Do not make God an object of your oaths, so that you do good and be righteous and make peace between the people. God is ALL-Hearing, All-Knowing." In his commentary, al-Baydawi (d.685/1286) clarifies this proscription: "Do not make Him the target of your oaths ans degrade Him (fa-tabtadhiluhu) through the frequency of your swearing to Him ... Since he who swears a lot acts audaciously against God" (Anwar al-tanzil wa-asrar al-tawil al-maruf bi-tafsir al-Baydawi, ed. Muhammad al-Marashli [Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi. 1998].1:140). For this line of interpretation (in more detail). see also the commentary of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1209). Tafsir al-Fakhr al-Razi al-mushtahir bi-l-tafsir al-kabir wa-mafatih al-ghayb (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr. 1981). 6:80.

(45.) Wa-l-kinayatu llati li-l-tabjili qawluhum abu fulanin siyanatan li-smihi an Ii-btidhal (Ibn Faris, al-Sahibi, 201): cf, al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil, 2:858. A.J. Wensinck argued (EI2, s.v. Kunya) that the origin of the kunya was the taboo on personal names without, however, referring to evidence from the Arabic sources. Ibn Rashiq al-Qayrawani (al-Umda, 1:315) discusses the kunya under the topic of kinaya, too, but unlike Ibn Faris says nothing about its euphemistic function.

(46.) The idea behind the taboo on one's personal name is that the name was often believed in many communities to capture the essence of a person. Knowing a person's name was therefore felt to be like having possession of the name bearer's soul; cf. Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 125-43. Further support for the irrelevance of euphemistic expressions in Arabic for God is found in a conversation between the vizier Ibn Sadan and the litterateur Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi that took place in Baghdad ca. 372/98-4. The vizier indicates the fact that God is addressed in the second person (yuwajahu bi-l-ta wa-l-kaf). despite His sublimity and greatness over all, and not with the kinaya of the third person pronoun (al-kinaya bi-l-ha) If this kinaya had any merit, avers the vizier, God would be the most deserving of it (al-Tawhidi, Kitab al-Imta wa-l-muanasa, ed. Ahmad Amin et al. (Beirut: Dar Maktabat 19661, I: 20-21); this was said concerning the expectation of (high-ranking) people to be addressed indirectly with kinayat. For an indication of a similar expectation, see al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 157.

(47.) According to Allan and Burridge (Forbidden Words, 177, 180-86), all human groups have food taboos of some sort and thus euphemisms are created for food taboo terms.

(48.) Dewar aher is "a reprehensible thing whose name one does not wish to mention, [like] debauchery, leprosy, pork, etc." (Eliezer Ben Yehudah, Millon hal-lashon ha-ivrit hay-yeshanah ve-ha-hadashah [Berlin-Schoneberg: Langenscheidt, 1908-19591, 2: 876).

(49.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba, 313-19.

(50.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 137-38. In contrast to kinaya, in which meaning is derived properly and/or tropically, in tarid it is done through neither of these, according to Ibn al-Athir. When someone says "I am needy and have nothing at all," expecting to be supported by another, this cannot be interpreted by way of proper or tropical language (i.e., "please give!"). In tarid the intended meaning is conveyed only by insinuation (innama yufhamu min jihati l-talwihi wa-l-ishara) (al-Mathal al-sair. ed. al-Hufi and Tabana, 3: 56-57 [source of quotation], 72-75). Al-Suyuti summarizes various views on tarid and explains what sets it apart from kinaya (with Quranic examples) in al-Itqan, 4: 1562-64.

(51.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 148-50; Ahmad al-Jurani, Kinayat al-udaba, 185-203.

(52.) Abmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-ridaba. 193,198-200. 201.

(53.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 150.

(54.) Al-Tawhidi, al-Basair wa-l-dhakhair, ed. Wadad (Beirut: Mir Sadir, 1988), 9: 51. In this respect Arabic is not different from many other languages in which "the names of dangerous animals are often not used in case the animal hears and feels called to attack. Hence 1...1 the orthophemistic English word bear derives from the euphemistic [the} brown one" (Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 39).

(55.) Wa-mimma yutafaalu bi-dhikrihi qawluhum bi-dhikrihi qawluhum li-l-falati mafazatun lianna l-qifara fi rukubiha l-halaku. Fa-kana haqquha an tusamma mahlakatan wa-lakinnahum hassanu lafzaha tatayyuran bi-ha wa-akasuhu tafaulan ... wa-min dhalika qawluhum li-l-ladighin salimun tafaulan (Kinayat al-udaba, 201). Al-Thaalibi (al-Kinaya, 149) points out the use of an antonym as a euphemism in an anecdote.

(56.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 28. Kaydh is glossed as ayr ('penis') in al-Thaalibi's selection from Abu Dulaf al-Khazraji's Qasida sasaniyya (Yatimat al-dahr, ed. Mufid Qumayha [Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1983], 3: 417). Al-Thaalibi (al-Kinaya, 5-6) refers concisely to his materials (and combination of seriousness and humor) in the book's introduction.

(57.) Orthophemism is a term coined by Allan and Burridge "to account for direct or neutral expressions that are not sweet-sounding, evasive or overly polite (euphemistic), nor harsh, blunt or offensive (dysphemistic)." Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 29, 31.

(58.) For more examples of X-phemisms, see ibid.. 32.

(59.) Ibid., 33.

(60.) Ibid., 37, 98-99.

(61.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 155. Tahsin wa-taqbih al-hasan is also the title of a work by Al-Thaalibi (ed. Shakir al-Ashur'Beirut: Muassasat al-Matbuat al-Arabiyya, 1981]), which, despite expectations, does not offer a discussion and examples of euphemisms and dysphemisms. Al-Thaalibl's goal in this work is to quote witticisms in poetry and prose "demonstrating" that what is commonly held as ugly is in fact beautiful (e.g., hoariness) and vice versa (e.g., intelligence), therefore not replacing given expressions with new ones seeking to beautify or uglify them, but rather declaring their value to be diametrically opposed to common belief. The only exception is a short section with the heading Tahsin al-qabin bi-l-kinayat. the most interesting part of which is a list of euphe misms particular to certain social groups or professions (physicians, for instance, use "water" as a euphemism for "urine." 35-36). For Al-Thaalibi's Tahsin al-qabih and the literary phenomenon of challenging commonly held views, see Geert Jan van Gelder, "Beautifying the Ugly and Uglifying the Beautiful: The Paradox in Classical Arabic Literature." Journal of Semitic Studies 48 (2003): 321-51 .

(62.) Al-Thaalibi. al-Kinaya, 155-56. Another version of this anecdote (where the retort comes from Abu l-Ayna) is in Abu Sad Mansur al-Abi, Nathr al-durr, ed. Muhammad Qurna et al. ([Cairo] al-Haya I-Misriyya I-Amma li-I-kitab, 1983), 3: 209: for more anecdotes featuring Abu l-Ayna and Ibn Mukarram. ibid., 3: 195-218. Abu 1-Ayna Muhammad b. al-Qasim (d. 282 or 283/896) was a litterateur and poet known for his linguistic attainments as well as his quickness at repartee: El2, s.v. Abu I-Ayna (C. Brockelmann). Muhammad b. Mukarram Abu Jafar al-Saffar (d. 231/845) was a Baghdadi scholar: al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad aw Madinat al-Salam (Cairo: Maktabat 1931). 2: 300.

(63.) The pertinent meaning of tamarragha is "to wallow in the dust." which is often associated with animals. The negative (in this case, sexual) connotations of mutamarragh and similar words from the same root are illustrated in Lisan al-arab, ad m-r-gh, e.g., maragha--a synonym of mutumarragh but also denoting a "she-donkey." and more specifically, "a she-donkey accessible to males"--which the Umayyad poet al-Akhtal (d. ca. 92/710) used in his name for his rival, the poet Jarir (d. ca. 111/729), "Ibn al-Mardgha." Ibn al-Marfigha was used by al-Akhtal, explains Ibn Manzur, to suggest that "men roll over her" (yatamarraghu alayha al-rijal), thus translating approximately as "son of the promiscuous she-donkey."

(64.) EAL, s.v. Ibn Sinan al-Khafaji (G. J. H. van Gelder).

(65.) This is the second line in a poem praising Zubayda (d. 216/831-2). wife of the caliph Harun al-Rashid. The poem appears in the following anecdote illustrating the case of "someone who intended a eulogy and accidentally produced a satire":
  A-Zubaydatu bnata Jafarin tuba li-zairiki l-muthabi
  Tutina min rijlayki ma tuti 1-akuffu min al-raghabi
  0 Zubayda daughter of Jafar, good is the lot of your
  rewarded visitor;

A poetaster came to Zubayda and praised her [kamil]:

You give from your legs the large gifts given by the palms of the hands.

The servants rushed to beat him, but she prevented them, saying, "He intended to praise, and had in mind what people say--'your left hand is more liberal than his right hand.' Thus, he thought that if he mentioned the leg he would be more eloquent. We had praised his purpose, although he did evil in what he carried out."

Al-Raghib al-Isfahani, Muhadarat al-udaba'. ed. Riyacl Murad (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 2006), 1: 191; al-Tawhidi, a1-Basair, 5: 40; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-ayan, ed. Ihsan 'Abbas (Beirut: Dar Sadir. 1977). 2: 315: Ibn Hamdun, al-Tadhkira al-hamduniyya, ed. lhsan Abbas and Bakr Abbas (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1996), 2: 143. In the second hemistich of the second line the short syllable i of raghaib (pl. of raghiba, 'a thing desired', 'a large gift') is dropped by poetic license and rendered raghab.

(66.) This is the last line or the Baghdadi poet al-Sharif (d. 406/1016) elegy on his mother, Fatima hint al-Nasir, who died in 385/995 (Sharh diwan al-Sharif al-Radi, ed. Muhammad Abd al-Hamid [(Cairo): Dar Ihya al-Kutub al-Arabiyya, 1949], 1: 45).

(67.) Al-Khafaji refers here to a line from a qasida by Imru I-Qays adduced shortly before as a model euphemism for sexual intercourse [tawil]:

Fa-sirna ila l-husna wa-raqqa kalamuna wa-rudtu fa-dhallat sabatan ayya idhlali

We then got to that which is best, and our words became tender; I completely tamed a refractory one, and she became submissive.

al-Khafaji, sirr al-fasaha, ed, Dawad al-Shawabika (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 2006). 157. For this line, see Kitab al-iqd al-thamin fi dawawin al-shuara al-sitta l-jahiliyyin, ed. W. Ahlwardt (London: Trubner, 1870), 152 (no. 52. 1. 24). Sulayman al-Tufi (Mawaid al-hays fi fawaid l-Qays. ed. Mustafa (Aliyyan [Amman: Dar al-Bashir. 1994], 214-1.5) enumerates three kinayat in this line. Ibn al-Athir (al-Mathal al-sair, ed. and Tabana, 3: 57) takes al-Khafaji to task for regarding lmru'l-Qays's line kinaya and not tarid.

(68.) Al-Khafaji, Sirr al-fasaha, 159.

(69.) Cf. the contemporary use of "dead-tree edition" for a newspaper's print edition, which is a neutral idea but when phrased thus is dysphemised because of the offensive connotations of cutting down forests by the paper industry, and--more generally--by the reference to the taboo concepts of killing and death; e.g., "The Black Smoker at the Sea Bottom," Achenblog by Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, June 4, 2010, (accessed June 12, 2010).

(70.) Al-Askari. Kitab a1-Sinaatayn, 381: 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Dalail, 70-72: Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Jurjani, al-Isharat wa al-tanbihat fi ilm al-balagha, ed. (Abd al-Qadir Husayn (Cairo: Dar Nahdat Misr, 1982), 249.

(71.) Al-Thaalibi, al-Kinaya, 11. The verb qadhira may have the meaning of "to be dirty" or "to consider something dirty, and then to shun it." Based on the second meaning, qadhur is a woman whose behavior is chaste ("she who turns away from men"). It is also a female proper name (wa-qadhuru smu mraa), as in our ease (Ibn Manzur, Lisan a1-arab. ad q-dh-r and k-n-y). The line of poetry is attributed to Abu Ziyad al-Kilabi (d. ca. 200/815-6), who grew up in a Bedouin environment in Arabia and later migrated to Baghdad where he provided information to notable philologists on Arabic lexicography, poetry. and lore (Encyclopaedic: of/slam. 3rd online ed., s.v. Abu Ziyad al-Kilabi [T Bauer], accessed August 30, 2010). Al-Thaalibi (al-Kinaya, 157) uses twill synonymously with kashf 'disclosure' and contrasts the two terms with tactic! 'allusion', remarking that the Bedouin (arab) employ allusion in their speech to convey their intention in a more subtle and elegant way than explicitly.

(72.) Al-Thaalibi enumerates these standard Bedouin euphemisms at al-Kinaya, 9. Al-Suyuti (al-Itqan. 4: 155657) considers the Bedouin practice of preferring the use of euphemisms to explicitly naming women as the reason for the absence of women's names in the Qur'an with the exception of Maryam.

(73.) Al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil, 2: 855.

(74.) Al-Tawhidi, al-Basair, 2: 67.

(75.) Al-Khafaji, Sirr al-fasaba, 157. Compare the triad kinaya, tasrih, didd al-kinaya to the three types of poetical utterance from the philosophical vantage point of Ibn Rushd, namely, tahsin. mutabaqa, taqbih (positive, neutral. and negative presentation); see Geert Jan van Gelder, The Bad and the Ugly: Attitudes towards Invective Poetry (Hija) in Classical Arabic Literature (Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1988), 99-101, 116.

(76.) Al-Sahib Ibn 'Abbad, al-Kashf 'an masawi' shi'r al-Mutanabbi, ed. Muhammad Al Yasin (Baghdad: Maktabat al-Nahda, 1965), 75; al-Tha'alibi. al-Kinaya, 21. For the line, see Diwan Abi I-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi wa-fi athna' matnihi sharh al-imam al-'allama al-Wahidi, ed. Fr. Dieterici (Berlin: E. S. Mittler, 1861). 278; Sharh diwwan al-Mutanabbi, ed. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Barquqi (Cairo: al-Maktaba l-Tijariyya 1-Kubra. (2) 1938). 1: 348. The Andalusian anthologist and critic Abu 1-Hasan 'Ali Ibn Bassam al-Shantarini (d. 543/1147) includes this line among al-Mutanabbi's sariqat, in this case from the grammarian Naftawayh (d. 323/934). The latter's line (Sariqat al-Mutanabbi wa-mushkil ma'anihi, ed. Muhammad 'Ashur [Tunis: al-Dar al-Tunisiyya li-l-Nashr, 1970], 22) reads: "I love handsome boys and love to interact socially with them, while having no wish to obtain from them the prohibited" (ahwa 1-milaha wa-ahwa an ujalisahum I wa-laysa lift haramin minhumu watarun) [basit]. Clearly, the term sariqa is used here in the sense of a "legitimate literary influence" (and not "plagiarism"), as the motif in al-Mutanabbi's line shows differences in meaning (mend), and its formulation (laf;) is completely different. On the various senses of sariqa, see Wolfhart Heinrichs, "An Evaluation of Sariqa," Quaderni di Studi Arabi 5-6 (1987-88): 357-68; on the criticism of al-Mutanabbi by al-Sahib in al-Kashf and the literary preferences it reveals, see Erez Naaman, "Literature and Literary People at the Court of al-Sahib Ibn 'Abbad" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2009), 158-88.

(77.) E12, s.v. Sirwal (W. Bjorkman).

(78.) E.g., "so and so is chaste of loincloth ... if he is chaste of genitals" (fulan 'afif al-izar ... idha 'afif al-farj). Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 28. Likewise for Ahmad al-Jurjani (Kinayat al-udaba', 65): "the loincloth is a euphemism for genitals" (al-izar kinaya 'an al-farj).

(79.) Abu Hilal al-'Askari, Kitab al-Sina'atayn, 384; al-Khafji Sirr al-fasaha, 68. According to Ibn al-Athir (al-Mathal al-sa'ir, ed. al-Hufi and Tabana, 3: 71), "this is a euphemism (kinaya) for decency and chastity, yet debauchery is better than it."

(80.) I am indebted to Avigail Noy who kindly referred me to al-Khafaji's discussion of al-Mutanabbi's line.

(81.) Abu Hayyan a1-Tawhidi, Akhlaq al-wazirayn, ed. Muhammad al-Tanji (Beirut: Dar Sadir. 1992). 387.

82. Al-Jahiz, Kitab al-Bursan wa-1-'urjan wa-1-'umyan wa-l-hulan, ed. 'Abd al-Salam Harun (Baghdad: Dar al-Rashid li-l-Nashr, 1982), 106-7. Van Gelder ("Beautifying the Ugly," 336 n. 68) notes al-Jahiz.'s "point that any euphemism tends to lose its force and in turn become a taboo word." His article was brought to my attention after mine was completed and I do not have access to the Bur, van edition (Beirut 1981, 74-75) he refers to, but assume we are both referring to the same place in the text. Al-Jahiz's comment that farj, an orthophemism for feminine or masculine genitals. was initially a euphemism is correct. Ibn Manzur's first gloss of farj (Lisan al-'arab, ad f-r-j) is "the gap between two things." A more specific sense mentioned by him is "that which is between the legs." He later remarks that "the genitals of women and men are called fad because they are between the two legs." Not unlike "crotch" in English. fad as "the gap between the two legs" was first employed metonymically as a euphemism for the genitals. Metonymy is understood here (following Roman Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances," in idem. On Language, ed. Linda R. Waugh et al. [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 19901, 125, 129-33) as a figure of speech based on contiguity: the gap between the two legs is spatially close to the genitals. Al-Tha'alibi (al-Kinaya, 20-24, 25-29) presents euphemisms for the female and male genitals tawra, used interchangeably with farj, as two orthophemisms) in two separate chapters. Supposedly prostitutes in the pm-Islamic era used to solicit customers by coughing (cf. Ibn Manzur. Lisan al-'arab, ad q-h-b), which might be the explanation for "coughing" as a euphemism for "fornicating."

(83.) Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 243. "Many euphemisms are short-lived: they degenerate into dysphemisms [and orthophemisms I through contamination by the taboo topic and they are then replaced. PC language tramps the same treadmill. Many terms are subject to precisely the same narrowing and deterioration that accompanies any taboo term" (ibid., 99): I added "and orthophemisms" in brackets because elsewhere the authors also indicate the possibility of a euphemism becoming an orthophemism. The examples given are the expressions "[going to the] toilet" superseded in American English by the euphemisms "bathroom" or "restroom," and "funeral director" (see following note).

(84.) "English undertaker once referred to someone who undertakes to do things, i.e., an 'odd-job man'; it was used as a euphemism for the person taking care of funerals, afuneral undertaker. Like most ambiguous taboo terms, the meaning narrowed to the taboo sense alone, and is now replaced by the euphemism funeral director--though even that may by now be an orthophemism. Euphemisms like this often start off with a modifying word, 'funeral' in funeral undertaker, and then the modifier is dropped as the euphemism fades." Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 43-46, 54, 243 (the passage quoted appears on p. 43).

(85.) Ibid., 42. 2.44-53.

(86.) Ibid., 2.

(87.) Wa-yaknuna [ahlu Baghdada] 'an al-tazniyati bi-qawlihim shatamahu bi-l-zay (al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 156). The anthologist adduces contemporary evidence in poetry for this use of zay.

(88.) This is Hans Marchand's terse definition in The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-For-mation: A Synchronic-Diachronic Approach (Munich: C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 21969), 441. Clipping is described in more detail as "the process whereby a lexeme (simplex or complex) is shortened, while still retaining the same meaning and still being a member of the same form class. Frequently clipping results in a change of stylistic level. The unpredictability concerns the way in which the base lexeme is shortened." Laurie Bauer, English Word-Formation (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983), 233. Marchand treats four types of clipping: back-clipping (lab for laboratory), fore-clipping (plane for airplane), clippings with the middle of the word retained (flu for influenza), and clipping-compounds (navicert for navigation certificate). Back-clipping is by far the most common in English according to Marchand, 441-50.

(89.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 95-96; Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 201; al-Jahiz, Kitab al-Bursan, 94-95, 105-7, 109, 330; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-a'yan, 6, 18; cf. Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab, ad b-r-sh). When Jadhima Ibn Malik, called Jadhima al-Abras (fl. third century A.D.), became king in Iraq, his name was euphemized to Jadhima al-Abrash ('the speckled'). The euphemism abrash for abras is said by al-Jahiz (al-Bursan, 94-95.105) to be also employed for the poet 'Amir b. Hawt al-Abrash.

(90.) Allan and Burridge, Euphemism and Dysphemism, 15 (note the section "Types of Euphemism." 14-20, and p. 31. in which the authors classify euphemisms from a rhetorical point of view. This type of classification is absent from their later work, Forbidden Words); Allan, "The Pragmatics of Connotation," 1055; Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 15-16.

(91.) Explaining the etymology of kinaya. al-Sakkaki (MOO, 402-3) states that all permutations of the letters k, n, and y have to do with the idea of concealment. Kinaya is the concealment of the explicit expression. When al-Sakkriki reaches the permutation kayn, he glosses this rather obscure word as 'labia minora' (al-lahma al-mustanbata fi falham al-mar'a). Then, instead of writing the last permutation, the taboo word nayk, he uses maqlub al-kayn and notes: "The whole [expression nayk] is inverted since people conceal it and are wary of pronouncing it explicitly, aside from performing its meaning in public." It is clear that the obscurity of the term kayn, whose meaning itself lies in the tabooed realm of sexual organs, made it possible to use maqlub al-kayn as a euphemism.

(92.) Ibn 'Abidin, Radd al-muhtar 'ala l-Durr al-mukhtar sharh Tanwir al-absar, ed. 'Adil 'Abd al-Mawjud and 'Ali Mu'awwad (Riyad: Dar 'Alam al-Kutub, 2003), 1: 565. Ibn 'Abidin (d. 1258/1842) was a distinguished Hanafi jurisconsult from Damascus, whose best known work is his commentary on al-Durr al-mukhtar of al-Haskafi (d. 1088/1677); cf. E12, s.v. Ibn 'Abidin. Here Ibn 'Abidin glosses maqlub al-kinaya as "sexual intercourse" (al-nayk ay al-jima'). He comments that al-Haskall "did not say maqlub al-kayn, although it is the actual inversion [of nayk], to increase the distance from its explicit expression (li-ziyadat al-taba'ud 'an bi-hi), because it is among the expressions (or actions) whose concealment is required."

(93.) Ibn 'Abidin, Radd al-muhtar, 1: 565.

(94.) Farghal, "Euphemism in Arabic," 375, and in EALL, s.v. Euphemism (note the evidence of remodeling in the Levantine and Egyptian dialects adduced in both sources). Charles Pellat (E12, s.v. Kinaya) quotes an example for remodeling, which he calls "voluntary alteration," in colloquial Moroccan Arabic: "tas'ud [tes'ud] 'you shall be happy' for the number 'nine' because tasa also means 'you shall be a beggar'." Note the reference to W. Margais's work on euphemism in Moroccan Arabic dialects in the entry's last paragraph.

(95.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 70, cf. 65; Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 137.

(96.) Cf. Allan and Burridge, Forbidden Words, 195.

(97.) Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language," 119-20, 129-33; Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, 12224, 125-27,

(98.) E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1984), ad r-b-q.

(99.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 107-8.

(100.) Wolfhart Heinrich% studied analogy-based metaphors as one particular type of metaphor in Arabic poetry and literary criticism; see his -Paired Metaphors in Muhdath Poetry," Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies 1 (1986): 3-4.

(101.) Tahsin al-qabih, 36; idem, al-Kinaya, 79.

(102.) Heinrichs, "Paired Metaphors," 3-4.

(103.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 70 (see the following poetical evidence, too); cf. Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba'. 125. A euphemism for lesbian intercourse (sahq) is "she puts the Ad on the Ad." Ibid., 141.

(104.) Diwan Abi Nuwas al-Hasan b. Hani' al-Hakami, ed. Ewald Wagner (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1972). 2: 74. This is the third line out of four in a lampoon against Zunbur b. Abi Hammad, whose mother is depicted as a voluptuous prostitute having sexual intercourse regularly with Abu Nuwas's poetic persona. Ibid., 72.

(105.) Abda' may also mean "most characterized by badi'." the "new style" associated with the "modern" 'Abbasid poets, which was rich in rhetorical figures. Cf. EAL, s.v. Bali (W. P. Heinrichs).

(106.) Tasarruf can be also understood as "conduct, behavior" (of Yusuf).

(107.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 65-66. Barakawayh al-Zanjani is listed by al-Tha'alibi (Yatimat al-dahr. 3: 47172) among the poets of the al-Jabal (or al-Jibal) region in Persia (the above poem appears in his entry). The poem (with a few changes) is also found in Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 106, but is ascribed to Abu 'Abdallah b. al-Mu'alla. The litterateur and judge (hakim) Abu Sa'd 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Dust of Nishapur. who collected Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhani's epistles, is mentioned as flourishing in 398/1008 (al-Tha'alibi, Yatimat al-dahr, 4: 491-94. which entry does not include the above poem; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayar al-tiyan, 1: 129).

(108.) E12. s.v. Hisab al-'Aqd (Ch. Pellat). A description and illuminating illustrations of numbers in dactylonomy, in addition to a short history of this art in East and West, are to be found in Georges Ifrah, The Universal History of Numbers from Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer, tr. David Bellos et al. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000), 52-59.

109. Ed. Ahmad 'Abd al-Salam et al. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya. 1988), 1: 42. The number ninety as "anus" is also spoken of (with examples) in E12, s.v. Kinaya, and Ifrah, Universal History of Numbers. 59.

(110.) On the use of Arabic characters as numerals. see E12, s.vv. Hisab a1-Djumma1 (G. S. Colin) and Abdjad (G. Well and G. S. Colin); lfrah, Universal History of Numbers, 241-46.

(1ll.) Al-Tha'alibi, 66.

(112.) See EAL, s.v. Allusion and Intertextuality (W. P. Heinrichs): Stefan Sperl. Mannerism in Arabic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1989). 64-70 and passim. Al-Suyuti refers to kind ya an kinelya in Qur'anic context in al-Itqan, 4: 1559. We also learn that passive male homosexuality (ubna) was a taboo topic from an epistle on the topic by Aba Bakr al-Razi (d. 313/ 925). In order to avoid the orthophemism ubna copyists chose the euphemism "the hidden illness" (al-da' al-khafi) for the subject in the title. While al-Razi himself uses ubna in his treatise, he ends by apologizing for having discussed the topic and explaining that he had to do so due to the lack of sufficient discussion by his predecessors. Franz Rosenthal. who translated the epistle in "Ar-Razi on the Hidden Illness," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 52 (1978): 45-60, sees al-Razi's "note of prudery" as reflecting "Muslim middle class sentiment."

(113.) Jakobson. "Two Aspects of Language." 119-20. 125; Saussure. Course in General Linguistics, 122-25.

(114.) See also al-Tha'alibi, Yatimat al-dahr, 3: 232; Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, ad j-r-dh. The paucity of large rats (or their absence) in one's household goes hand in hand with a state of poverty, as there is no food for them to thrive on.

(115.) Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language." 130, 132; idem, "Brain and Language," in On Language, ed. Waugh, 506.

(116.) The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, s.v. Synecdoche (W. Martin) (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. 1993).

(117.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kiralyat al-udabe, 186. Note that the dead man and death are one in Ahmad al-Jurjani's analysis, constituting the general term (or the whole).

(118.) Al-Tha'alibi, Tahsin al-qabih, 36; idem, al-Kinaya, 79.

(119.) Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language," 119-20, 129.

(120.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 98, 148; Ahmad al- jurjani Kinayat al-udabif, 188, 201. The antonymic euphemisms basir for dma and salim for ladigh are still in use in Modern Standard Arabic; cf. Farghal. "Euphemism in Arabic," 376.

(121.) AI-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 71.

(122.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 202; cf. al-Jahiz, al-Bursan, 110-11.

(123.) Al-Tha'alibi, Tahsin al-qabih, 35; appearing already (alongside other kinayat) in al-Jahiz, al-Bayan wa-l-tabyin, ed. 'Abd al-Salam Haran (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 1998), 1: 263.

(124.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 99; al-Jahiz, al-Bayan, 1: 263.

(125.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 97.

(126.) Ibid., 43-44; Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 170. The understating euphemism muftasid is associated by Ahmad al-Jurjani with the muwalladun or people not of pure Arab (Bedouin) stock. This association suggests, by extension, that the origin of the euphemistic usage is in post-classical Arabic, since muwalladun can also refer to the poets of the later 'Abbasid period to distinguish them from the mulzdathun, the early 'Abbasid poets; cf. E12, s.v. Muwallad (W. P. Heinrichs).

(127.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-udaba', 199. Adham may also mean "shackle" (qayd) because of the latter's blackness; see Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, ad d-h-m.

(128.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya, 118. The story of al-Khidr is narrated in surat al-Kahf (Q 18:65-82), without. however, naming him explicitly. The most pertinent verse is Q 18:77: "So they [al-Khidr and Moses] set out, until when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food ...."

(129.) Al-Tha'alibi. al-Kinaya, 111. This euphemism appears to originate from the proverb "that will not happen until the thorn-tailed lizard and whale are brought together" (la yakunu dhalika hatta yujma'u bayna l-dabbi wa-l-nun); cf. al-Jahiz, al-tlayawan, ed. 'Abd al-Salitm HArun (Cairo: al-Babi 1-Halabi, (2) 1966). 5: 529.

(130.) Al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinayat, 102.

(131.) Ibid., 106.

(132.) Ahmad al-Jurjani, Kinayat al-Idabel', 169.

(133.) Al-Thdalibi notes in his introduction (al-Kinfiya, 5) the function and cultural value of the euphemisms presented to the elite audience: "These 'acceptable expressions] convey the meaning. state clearly the sense, beautify the ugly, refine the crude, and dress it pleasingly when addressing kings, corresponding with modest people (muhtashimin), conferring with men of excellence, and discussing with possessors of virtue (muiru'a) and elegance (zarj)."

(134.) As seen in the following anecdote (al-Tha'alibi, al-Kinaya. 62), transgressing a taboo in act or word could lead to social sanctions: The name of the vizier (or other identifying details) are not provided: however. "the court in Bukhara" and "the sultan's court" (al-hadra bi-Bukhara; hadrat al-sultan) suggest that the vizier was serving the Samanid sultan in Bukhara, which was the Samanid capital from 279/892 until the fall of the dynasty in 395/1005. See E12, s.v. Samanids (C. E. Bosworth).

COPYRIGHT 2013 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Naanian Erez
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Jul 1, 2013
Previous Article:Etana in Eden: new light on the Mesopotamian and Biblical Tales in their semitic context.
Next Article:Birds of a feather: Vamana bhatta bana's hamsasandesa and its intertexts.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters