Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

‘Pashto Mashto? Nakhair, Chat Mat.’

AAN Team 5 min

Dear readers of Pashto Mashto, As you may have noticed already, with the new year has come a new name for this series, although the content will go on as usual. Here is why.

The inaugural blog of this series, back in January 2010, has proven prophetic when it said the series would not, ‘try to poke fun of Pashto, as some people might think’. Some people indeed thought this was the case, and after accumulating a collection of e-mails on the subject, we decided to take action because, as the Pashto proverb goes:

Che ghal na awṛi, mal di wawṛi

‘When thieves don’t give up, it is the sheep who must change their way’

The problem appears to have been in the name, rather than the contents of the series.  Those who dislike it felt we were belittling the Pashto language, and the culture associated with it (in the sense of ‘doing Pashto’). This was quite opposite to our aims, which were to be ‘a bit educational’ and ‘entertaining, but in a respectful way’, as the first blog put it. Anyway, we decided it was not worth risking hurting anyone’s feelings by retaining the name.

However, it does not mean we agree with those readers who felt the previous name was derogatory to Pashtuns and their culture. We would like to say that the appearance of ‘Pashto’ in it was purely by chance, as the linguistic device of adding to a word its repetition with an altered initial consonant, usually the ‘m’, is common to most languages in the region, from Farsi to Bengali. Thus, in an Afghan context, Dari Mari, Uzbeki Muzbeki or Baluchi Maluchi would have worked as well, and therefore, no aspect of the Pashto language – of which many of us pride ourselves to be speakers – was targeted.* The first blog in the series just happened to be about Pashto language – and the name stuck.

The original idea behind the series was to explore aspects of the languages, culture and history of Afghanistan, in a different way than they are usually – if at all – covered in the media. To convey the idea of the diverse, even fuzzy, collection of material which was bound to originate from writers escaping the daily grind of hard political analysis, the title ‘Pashto Mashto’ was chosen. We assumed it would be both recognisable and have a catchy, internally rhyming sound for the ears of our foreign readers.

Now, we light-heartedly change the name, and after a tight competition between:

Bogu Magu;

Pregda Megda;

Khabari Mabari;

and Chakar Makar;

Well, we opted for Chat Mat.

We already foresee the risk for further criticism. Chat – although existing with a separate meaning in Dari too** – is an English word, and thus we could incur the ire of language purists. As far as we know, however, Afghan society is too open and creative to stand by criteria of language purity, especially regarding a website written in English.

We also take our chance with a ‘contaminated’ expression, which we deem fit to express our own contamination, whether as foreigners who learned to love Afghanistan, its languages and culture; or Afghans who learned to express ourselves in a foreign language for a largely foreign readership.

And, above all, we hope you will continue to enjoy our Chat Mat.

* Furthermore, we believe that the way such a device is employed in spoken language, although implying a very informal relation with the object mentioned, is not necessarily a derogatory one. But of course we accept that to apply the device to the very name of a language may be considered improper by some speakers of that language.

** Chat in Dari is the ceiling of a room, and it means also the last part of a cigarette (whatever its content) you can smoke, that coming right before the filter. The chat of our title of course refers to the English word, giving the expression the easily understandable meaning of ‘small talk’.

Dear readers of Pashto Mashto, As you may have noticed already, with the new year has come a new name for this series, although the content will go on as usual. Here is why.

The inaugural blog of this series, back in January 2010, has proven prophetic when it said the series would not, ‘try to poke fun of Pashto, as some people might think’. Some people indeed thought this was the case, and after accumulating a collection of e-mails on the subject, we decided to take action because, as the Pashto proverb goes:

Che ghal na awṛi, mal di wawṛi

‘When thieves don’t give up, it is the sheep who must change their way’

The problem appears to have been in the name, rather than the contents of the series.  Those who dislike it felt we were belittling the Pashto language, and the culture associated with it (in the sense of ‘doing Pashto’). This was quite opposite to our aims, which were to be ‘a bit educational’ and ‘entertaining, but in a respectful way’, as the first blog put it. Anyway, we decided it was not worth risking hurting anyone’s feelings by retaining the name.

However, it does not mean we agree with those readers who felt the previous name was derogatory to Pashtuns and their culture. We would like to say that the appearance of ‘Pashto’ in it was purely by chance, as the linguistic device of adding to a word its repetition with an altered initial consonant, usually the ‘m’, is common to most languages in the region, from Farsi to Bengali. Thus, in an Afghan context, Dari Mari, Uzbeki Muzbeki or Baluchi Maluchi would have worked as well, and therefore, no aspect of the Pashto language – of which many of us pride ourselves to be speakers – was targeted.* The first blog in the series just happened to be about Pashto language – and the name stuck.

The original idea behind the series was to explore aspects of the languages, culture and history of Afghanistan, in a different way than they are usually – if at all – covered in the media. To convey the idea of the diverse, even fuzzy, collection of material which was bound to originate from writers escaping the daily grind of hard political analysis, the title ‘Pashto Mashto’ was chosen. We assumed it would be both recognisable and have a catchy, internally rhyming sound for the ears of our foreign readers.

Now, we light-heartedly change the name, and after a tight competition between:

Bogu Magu;

Pregda Megda;

Khabari Mabari;

and Chakar Makar;

Well, we opted for Chat Mat.

We already foresee the risk for further criticism. Chat – although existing with a separate meaning in Dari too** – is an English word, and thus we could incur the ire of language purists. As far as we know, however, Afghan society is too open and creative to stand by criteria of language purity, especially regarding a website written in English.

We also take our chance with a ‘contaminated’ expression, which we deem fit to express our own contamination, whether as foreigners who learned to love Afghanistan, its languages and culture; or Afghans who learned to express ourselves in a foreign language for a largely foreign readership.

And, above all, we hope you will continue to enjoy our Chat Mat.

* Furthermore, we believe that the way such a device is employed in spoken language, although implying a very informal relation with the object mentioned, is not necessarily a derogatory one. But of course we accept that to apply the device to the very name of a language may be considered improper by some speakers of that language.

** Chat in Dari is the ceiling of a room, and it means also the last part of a cigarette (whatever its content) you can smoke, that coming right before the filter. The chat of our title of course refers to the English word, giving the expression the easily understandable meaning of ‘small talk’.

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Pashto Language

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