Big Picture (great photography blog) posted on Eid al-Adha recently. At the risk of bringing the religious hordes to the comment section of this blog (ed note: as if), the opening paragraph in that post uses a common nomenclature which I personally find extremely bizarre. Specifically,
…the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismail (Ishmael)…
Now, I want to say I understand why Ibrahim/Abraham and Ismail/Ishmael are both being used. I also get why the two spellings will continue to be used. Don’t want to offend, clear distinction about which religion is being referenced, the whole history behind each name, etc… blah blah. I get it. Don’t go there. That’s not the weird part.
The bizarre part to me is how this oddity in English nomenclature may have arisen originally. I mean the following is the hypothetical comedic scenario that plays out in my head when I think about logic in the time-frame.
- Sometime between the 5th century when ye olde english alphabet was first developed and the early 19th century when the modern alphabet was finalized (thanks Wikipedia), some medieval dude wrote out Abraham and Ishmael for the first time ever in English using this spelling.
- Shortly after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, Caliph Abu Bakr compiled the Quran into a single book (presumably in Arabic and not English).
- At some point, some English-speaker decided to write about the Muslim religion in English for the first time ever and, when getting to the part about Abraham and Ishmael, he decided that, “No, even though I know that they are referring to the same persons, I will intentionally spell their names differently so that my readers will know when I’m referring to which religion in my writings. Thus, they will be able to keep track and know its the same people. My writings will therefore be more clear and not less. Besides, there couldn’t possibly be any downstream ramifications of this decision.”
Butterfly flaps its wings…