Sunday, January 15, 2006

A frank of admission of ignorance

Every now and again I come across a word that everyone else out there seems to know about but, for some reason, I don’t.

I recall gubernatorial causing me some vexation in the not too distant past.

My latest problem word is ‘segway’. For months now I’ve kept hearing that frickin word; usually from the mouths of American TV presenters and radio hosts when announcing a link between two articles...

segway segway segway

In my ignorance, and taking the context into account, I just assumed that it was some sarcastic reference to riding around, slowly, on a Segway bicycle thingie, possibly even to George Bush falling off one some time ago.

To cut a long story short, the penny dropped the other day and I discovered that the word that has been bugging me is actually ‘segue’, as in…

segue [pronounced "segway"] is a direction to a performer. It means continue (the next section) without a pause. It comes from the Italian "it follows"

Der, I got it completely the wrong way round. The Segway name was a playful pun on the word ‘segue’ all along that went totally over my head.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t bought one yet


Another word I’ve been playing around with recently is ‘Qaeda’, as in Al Qaeda. A comment on a previous post mentioned that one translation of Al Qaeda is ‘The Teacher’ which rang a few bells in the back of my head and I did some checking to confirm my, different, understanding of the translation. The segue incident had bruised my self confidence beyond measure.

Most sources agree that Al Qaida actually means ‘The Base’. Two explanations have been advanced for the origin of the expression.

The first explanation comes from Bin Laden himself. Well someone claiming to be Bin Laden anyway. The shape of his face and his overall build change from video to video so many times that I lose track of which one is supposed to be the real one…

The name 'al Qaeda' was established a long time ago by mere chance. The late Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri established the training camps for our mujahedeen against Russia's terrorism. We used to call the training camp al Qaeda [meaning 'the base' in English]. And the name stayed

The second explanation is a little more intriguing and originated from a former French security officer, Major Pierre-Henri Bunel. Robin Cook, the former UK Foreign Secretary seemed to buy into Bunel’s explanation and quoted it in a newspaper article he wrote before his death…

Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians

I remember that my first thought on reading this second suggested explanation was how lucky it was for Al Qaeda that its membership details weren’t recorded on a spreadsheet or, worse still, a paper-based contact management system

Al Filofax

Doesn’t have quite the same ring does it?


Daniel said...


Al Filofax: Yeah, I've thought that about in the past as well.

Robert said...

I thought Al Qaeda meant "The Network"...

Apprentice said...

It's 'taleban' that means student, or seeker, isn't it? Aye, looks like it: