The Corner

Mikhail V Michael

Yesterday on NPR I heard a correspondent talk about the capture of Tariq Aziz. Most of the usual stuff from his bio was covered: former foreign minister, Christian, no power-base, blah blah blah. One thing caught my ear though. The reporter, discussing how “Westernized” Aziz is, said “He was born with the name Michael.” Well, no he wasn’t. He was born with the name Mikhail. In fact, many Arabs of a certain age were given Sovietized/Russian names because so much of the Middle East was smitten with Communism. Now, I’m no expert on Arab names, so maybe Mikhail is just the Arab pronuciation of Michael, but I doubt it. Regardless, I got this sneaking suspicion that the NPR guy Anglofied (Americanized?) “Mikhail” because it sounded too Soviet if pronounced properly. It’s a little thing but little things matter and it’s been bugging me.

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