-ist vs. -ic in Riyadh

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During last year's presidential campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly insistent that everyone should use the term "radical Islamic terrorism". For example, his reaction to the Orlando massacre, from Inside Edition 7/13/2016:

Announcer: Trump spoke out about the massacre today, saying the president is afraid to call it an act of Islamic terrorism.
Donald Trump: He won't even use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" which I think is insulting to our country and it's insulting to everybody. And if you don't use the term, if you don't describe what's happening, you're never going to solve the problem.

So like many others, I was curious how he would handle the issue in his speech to the "Arab Islamic American Summit" yesterday in Riyadh.

According the White House's version of his "remarks as prepared for delivery", he was going to go with the somewhat more PC approximation "Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires".

Of course, there is still much work to do.  

That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

The idea behind this difference is that "Islamic" ties the underlying ideas and motivations directly to the religion as  a whole, while "Islamist", echoing "fundamentalist", could mean a political ideology claiming a (perhaps false) relationship to an allegedly original version of the religion. President Obama argued against all such terms, while Hilary Clinton preferred "radical Islamism" or "radical jihadist terrorism".

But what Donald Trump actually said was a bit different. He changed "Islamist" to "Islamic", added a reference to "Islamicists", and interpolated a sentence about "what they're doing to inspire":

Of course, there is still much work to be done.
That means honestly confronting the crisis
of Islamic extremism
and the Islamicists and Islamic terror of all kinds.
We must stop what they're doing to inspire
because they do nothing to inspire but kill

and we are having a very profound effect
if you look at what's happened recently.
And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims,
the oppression of women,
the persecution of Druz- Jews,
and the slaughter of Christians.

The omission in the prepared text of the signature phrase "radical Islamic terrorism", and these interpolations in the speech as delivered, were noted in the media coverage. Thus Olivia Beavers, "Official: Trump's 'radical Islamic terrorism' wording changed because he's 'exhausted'", The Hill 5/21/2017:

A senior White House official said Sunday President Trump mixed up the wording of his prepared remarks in Saudi Arabia because he was "exhausted."  

"He's just an exhausted guy," the official told reporters on background, after many pointed out that Trump avoided the term "radical Islamic terrorism," during the speech to leaders of more than 50 Muslim-majority nations.  

Trump diverted slightly from his prepared remarks in using "Islamic" rather than "Islamist."  

After remaining largely on script, that diversion caught the attention of many listeners who were curious to see whether Trump would use his key phrase.

Or Jamin Lee "WH: Trump was 'exhausted' when he said 'Islamic extremism'", CNN 5/22/2917:

The difference between "Islamic extremism" and "Islamist extremism"? One exhausted President. 

President Donald Trump's substitution of the slightly different terms during his highly anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday might go unnoticed by the average US listener.

But the subtle change — or slip, as the White House called it — could mean the difference  between offending Middle Eastern allies and not, a concern for any president looking to create a good first impression with a key ally on a first trip abroad.

Using the word "Islamic," a reference to the religion, in the same breath as "terrorism" could be seen by Muslims as an affront to their faith and actually play into the terrorists' "clash of civilizations" narrative — reasons why President Barack Obama assiduously avoided the combination during his presidency.

"Islamist," meanwhile, refers to political movements that seek to implement Islamic law and theology, making it less objectionable to Muslims when paired with "terrorism," the idea goes.

Most of the president's other deviations from the written text were interpolated intensifications of one kind or another — for example:

Text: and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.
Speech: and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman
for his strong demonstration
and his absolutely incredible and powerful leadership.

Text: This fertile region has all the ingredients for extraordinary success
Speech: The fertile region
and it is so fertile
has all of the ingredients
for extraordinary success

Text: I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.
Speech: I ask you to join me, to join together,
to work together, and to FIGHT together

because united we will not fail,
we can not fail
nobody
absolutely nobody
can beat us

These seem like glimpses of the president's true style.

There were certainly a few speech errors that might be indications of exhaustion. Thus "true toll" in the prepared text came out as something more like "too troll":

The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. 

The [tu trol] of ISIS,
if you look at what's happening,
Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others,
must be counted not only in the number of dead.

"Leaving" in the text became "living" in the speech, and with some improvised material to rescue the slip:

The surge of migrants and refugees leaving the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies.

The surge of migrants and refugees living
and just living so poorly
that they're forced to leave
the Middle East
depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies
and economies.

And an extra syllable slipped into "ethnicity":

We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again
and make this region a place
where every man and woman, no matter their faith
or ethnicitity,
can enjoy a life of dignity
and hope.

The outcome of "ethnicity" alone:

I'm prone to similar speech errors on certain words or phrases, though I don't have the impression that fatigue makes this type of error more likely.



11 Comments

  1. Coby Lubliner said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 8:34 am

    I am curious about the "Druz- Jews." Did Trump (or the speechwriter) mean Druze?

    [(myl) I doubt it — I probably shouldn't have evoked that association in spelling out the speech error, which might (for example) be an anticipation of the onset cluster in "Christians":


    ]

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 9:30 am

    He uses "Islamicist" as a noun rather than an adjective, but that made me curious as to where "Islamicist" as an adjective would fall in relation to the supposed semantic nuance between "Islamic" and "Islamist." Is there a literature about the semantics of piling up multiple-and-arguably-redundant suffixes in English morphology? I am reminded via free-association of a conversation many decades ago about the proposition that "Communistic" and "Bolshevistic" sounded more definitively pejorative, whereas "Communist" and "Bolshevist" could in a given context be merely neutral/descriptive. It seemed to us at the time (although we were undergraduates and perhaps not quite unintoxicated enough for our native-speaker intuitions to ground good descriptive linguistics scholarship) that "Communistical" or "Bolshevistical" would be even more pejorative, except for the potential risk of sounding self-parodic.

  3. BZ said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

    I find both these forms strange. There is an irregular (for English) adjectival form for "Islam" which is "Muslim". In any case, -ic does not seem to be a generally productive suffix in this context. Does "Judaistic" or "Christianic" sound correct to anyone? -ist could work, though not for "Islamist" alone, since "Islamism" is of course better known as "Islam", and as I said, "Muslim" would be the adjectival form. For "Radical Islamist" it could perhaps work if "Radical Islamism" became a real term, which, of course, it's not.

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

    I think "Islamism" is generally intended to be understood, by those who find it a useful term, as conceptually distinct from "Islam" (and more or less inherently a Bad Thing as opposed to Islam which is a Good or at least Tolerable Thing), but there's perhaps a strong temptation to add additional pejorative adjectives like "radical" to Islamism and derived terms like Islamist in order to make the intended conceptual distance from common-or-garden-variety Islam harder to miss.

  5. rosie said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

    "Islamism" is of course not a synonym of "Islam".
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamism
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Islamism

  6. Adrian said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 1:55 pm

    BZ "if "Radical Islamism" became a real term, which, of course, it's not"

    Some people disagree… https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=radical+islamism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b&gfe_rd=cr&ei=sDMjWa29CKv38AfL-IDwCw#q=radical+islamism&tbs=li:1

  7. Levantine said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

    I think the distinction between "Islamism" and "Islam" (and likewise between "Islamist" and "Muslim") is widely understood and very useful, particularly in today's political climate.

    I know "Islamicist" only as a noun; it is a term used to describe an academic who works on any aspect of the Islamic world (history, art, etc.), in the same way that one speaks of Italianists and Hispanicists.

    As an Islamicist, I draw a distinction between "Islamic" and "Muslim", though there is, of course, a semantic overlap. Thus whereas "Muslim art" suggests something that is expressly religious in theme or purpose, "Islamic art" describes material that, while produced in a culturally/geographically Muslim context, need not have anything to do with the religion of Islam per se. It's the same difference as between "Christian art" and "the art of Christendom"; one is a subset of the other.

  8. ryan said,

    May 23, 2017 @ 1:03 am

    I thought it was pretty interesting that a source from the Islamic community on NPR on Sunday said that Trump had done well by saying Islamic terrorism rather than radical Islamic terrorism. Huh?

    Another political debate that was really all shibboleths that meant nothing. Meant nothing to Trump and the GOP, since given the chance, he backed down and they said nothing against him for it. Meant nothing to the other side because if anyone who wasn't primarily motivated by political tribalism was offended by the term radical Islamic terrorism, they would surely be much more offended by Islamic terrorism, but as it turns out they weren't.

  9. hector said,

    May 24, 2017 @ 2:04 am

    cf. "science" and "scientism." The former is rarely pejorative; the latter, frequently.

  10. Rose Eneri said,

    May 26, 2017 @ 9:32 am

    Regarding BZ's comment that Muslim is an adjectival form of Islam – With my very limited knowledge of Arabic, I do not think this is accurate or at least not culturally sensitive. In Arabic, the prefix mu indicates "one who". So, a Muslim is a person who is a follower of Islam. (Muhammad means one who is worthy of praise.) So, I would not say, for example, "Muslim art". It would be more accurate to say "Islamic art". But, I would say Muslim women, not Islamic women.

    Perhaps Levantine can explain it better.

  11. Levantine said,

    May 26, 2017 @ 7:38 pm

    Rose Eneri, you're right: "Muslim" is really an active participle that means "one who submits", with "Islam" being a verbal noun meaning "submission". In Arabic (and Persian), the adjectival form of "Islam" is "Islami" ("Islamiyya" when qualifying feminine or inanimate plural nouns), which is equivalent to our "Islamic". Nevertheless, there are cases in English where "Muslim" is the more idiomatic choice of adjective, even if it doesn't reflect Arabic usage: "Muslim world" sounds better to me than "Islamic world", though I can give no logical reason for why this is so.

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