The SISSILY countries

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Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen. We're going to need an acronym, in case we forget which are the seven countries on the blacklist. And Language Log is here for you: we have prepared one. Somalia-Iran-Sudan-Syria-Iraq-Libya-Yemen: SISSILY. We can refer to them as the SISSILY countries. And to convince you of the threat they pose, I have prepared a table of the statistics for all of the terrorist murders that the evil citizens of those countries have perpetrated so far. The table is below. I warn you, the data are rather shocking.

Iran 0 0
Iraq 0 0
Libya 0 0
Somalia 0 0
Sudan 0 0
Syria 0 0
Yemen 0 0

I guess these numbers are a bit lower than I was expecting when I started the research. But in President Trump's defense, we must think of the future. In order to protect America from the potential jihadists who have been flooding in from these countries, their citizens are banned from entry for the next 90 days. This clever move has disrupted all the many outrages planned by the citizens of the SISSILY countries, putting them off by a clear three months. That'll teach them to mess with us!

Of course, it is somewhat surprising that among the countries missing from the SISSILY list are Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, since between them those four countries have contributed citizens responsible for terrorism causing roughly 3,000 killed and 6,000 wounded on US soil. Why did our president leave those countries off the list? It's a reasonable question. All that occurs to me is the line from Townes Van Zandt's song Pancho and Lefty about why the Federales continued for so long to let the bandit Pancho slip away: "Out of kindness, I suppose."

Right now Saudi-born terrorists can travel to Afghanistan for a bit of training, and then fly into JFK direct from Egypt or Pakistan to prepare new atrocities, and the new executive order will not impede them at all. It only impedes people from the SISSILY countries — Iraqi-born professors returning to teach for the spring semester, or Iranian students coming back after visiting relatives… or people like Sir Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah, C.B.E., the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic history. He cannot now fly to visit his relatives in the USA if traveling direct from the land of his birth; he would have to change planes at London Heathrow, and use only his British passport.

It's all a bit odd, I grant you. But we must trust the wisdom of our new commander in chief, mustn't we? (Ex-KKK leader David Duke does; he tweeted in delight, adding the hashtag #MuslimBan.)

However, this is Language Log, not International Terrorist Outrage Prevention Log. So let's return to language. The main languages of the SISSILY countries are Arabic (Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen), Persian (Iran), and Somali (Somalia). Stay alert for the sound of those when you are on international flights. These are the languages of our enemies. If you hear a suspicious pharyngeal consonant or see a document in an alien writing system, report it to the cabin crew and get the passenger taken off the flight. Help protect America.

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