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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


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.

Pargol Saati


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