What's in a Word?

By Andrea Stanton

The Top 1,000 Words for Understanding Media Arabic

By Elisabeth Kendall

Georgetown Press, 2005

“What is the Arabic term for ‘suicide bombing’?” asks the back cover. This and the other sample terms – “peacekeeping forces” and “economic sanctions” –  indicate Elisabeth Kendall’s concern to identify critical words for understanding Arabic press coverage of geopolitical, economic, and humanitarian issues facing the Arab world.

The topics covered – general media terms, politics, elections, the military, economics, trade and industry, law and order, and disaster and aid – reflect the subjects crucial to Americans working in and on the region.

As one would expect with any book of this type, there are exclusions. The topics covered do not necessarily coincide with issues that Arab media figures consider most important – religion, for example. Nor do they cover “soft” topics like culture. “Trade and Industry” overlooks la-riba and other Islamic banking terms, despite their increasing economic salience.

This book is intended as a study guide, not a reference dictionary; its non-alphabetical, thematic organization may frustrate those searching for a particular Arabic term or an English definition. For those interested in learning, rather than looking up, this book is an invaluable resource.

This review appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 12, nos. 56/57 (Summer/Fall 2006)

Copyright (c) 2006 by Al Jadid