Liberal Arts Blog — Dari (Afghanistan), Pole Pole (Swahili), Dysphemisms and Euphemisms

John Muresianu
4 min readFeb 20, 2024

Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day

Today’s Topic: Dari (Afghanistan), Pole Pole (Swahili), Dysphemisms and Euphemisms

Last time, three monologues of Shakespeare (“This above all to the thine own self be true,” “The Seven Ages of Man,” and “St. Crispian.” The week before that three fables by Aesop related to the theme of power (“The Wolf and the Lamb,” “The Lion and the Bulls,” and the “Lion and the Mouse,”And The week before that quotes from Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” such as “Put a bouquet of flowers on the table and everything will taste twice as good.”

Today, a hodge podge of things I learned this week related to language.

Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

DARI IS THE LINGUA FRANCA OF AFGHANISTAN AND IS MUTUALLY INTELLIGIBLE WITH FARSI

1. Dari is to Afghanistan as Latin was to medieval Europe.

2. Dari and Farsi are like Hindu (spoken in India) and Urdu (spoken in Pakistan).

3. “Dari is the term officially recognised and promoted since 1964 by the Afghan government for the Persian language….Afghanistan’s Persian-speaking population still prefer to call their language “Farsi”, asserting that the term “Dari” has been imposed upon them by the dominant Pashtun ethnic group as an effort to detach Afghanistan from its deep-rooted cultural, linguistic, and historical connections with the wider Persian-speaking world, encompassing Iran, Tajikstan, and parts of Uzbekistan.”

“POLE POLE” (slowly, slowly or little by little) — a philosophy of how to live in Kenya, Tanzania — as in how to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro — little step by little step (below a map of countries in which Swahili is spoken)

1. Akin to “no worries.” Or “la dolce vita.” Or “relax” or “chill.”

2. A related expression is “pole sana” which literally means “I’m very sorry,” but more broadly expresses “sympathy at another’s burden…..Telling someone “pole sana” like saying you are “with them.”

3. While Swahili is the first language of only 5 to 15 million people, it is a “lingua franca” of 60 to 150 million people in east africa. It is the official language of Tanzania and one of two official languages in Kenya (the other is English). In Uganda Swahili is the third most spoken language after English and Luganda.

DYSPHEMISMS AND EUPHEMISMS — do you have a favorite one of each?

1. Have you ever had the experience of arguing with someone and realizing your opponent had a really, really good one liner that was at a very deep level unfortunately true?

2. Euphemism: “negative cash flow problem,” “pass away,”

3. Dysphemism: “broke,” “kick the bucket.”

NB: “Euphemists fancy themselves polite, dysphemists fancy themselves precise.”

Dari — Wikipedia

Swahili language — Wikipedia

Pole Pole — A (Refreshing?) Mindset Shift

pole sana — Adventures in Tanzania

Opinion | If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Try a Dysphemism

Not Nice and Too Nice: A Collection of Dysphemisms and Euphemisms

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine Handout

NB: Palestine Orion (Decision) — let’s exchange Orions, let’s find Rumi’s field (“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there” Rumi, 13 century Persian Sufi mystic)

THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY INTO FOURTEEN BOOK-LENGTH PDFS:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture.

Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.