May 31, 2000
I speak Persian
I have been wondering for years why Iranians and now Americans too refer
to our language as "Farsi" using an Iranian word instead of its
English translation which is Persian ["Eenjoori
beneveeseem?"]. When speaking English, we say Germans speak German
(not Deutsch), French speak French (not Francais) and Spanish speak Spanish
(not Espagnol). Then we have Persians speaking Farsi.
I cannot understand how the Iranian word Farsi crept into English, when
they still call pesteh: pistachio; karvan: caravan; padjamak: pyjama. When
speaking English we use the English translation or equivalents, when speaking
Persian we shall use the word Farsi. Several novels which I have read lately
by Iranian women writers written in English all refer to our language
as Farsi, and they are written in English.
Now as far as the name of the language goes, Persian is one of the five
Iranian languages: Avestan, Old Persian, Pahlavi, Parthian, and Eastern
Iranian. The older version Old Persian was spoken by the Achamaenids and
then the Sassanians continued it as we know it as Pahlavi. The Sassanians
then made it the official language and upon the Arab conquest, it became
the only survivor of the Iranian languages. So the language in its purer
form was called Parsi and only the Arabs replaced the P with an F as they
did many other words and it became Farsi which is only what the Arabs called
our language, and now we let the world adopt it. Let's not!
We are Iranians speaking an Iranian language: Persian. Some of us would
rather call themselves Persian because it is a reminder of the great empires
and kings as we have been referred to in the Bible which still has a stronger
hold on the Western mind than Ted Coppel. But technically we are Iranians.
Aesthetically we could be called Persians not to remind people of the hostage
crisis. But as long as I am writing in English, I speak Persian.