Friday, February 26, 2010

What's in a name?

The New York Times' Ethan Bronner reports, in an article about a dispute between Jerusalem's mayor and Jerusalem Arabs:

[N]o utterance escapes politics. All labels and names here are contested. The mayor calls the neighborhood not by its Arabic name of Al Bustan but by a Hebrew one — Gan Hamelech, or the King’s Garden, a reference to the spot some believe King David wrote psalms.
The implication is that the Arabic term for the neighborhood is the ancient, correct one, and that the Hebrew name has been retrofitted to erase Arab history.

But as the My Right Word blog notes, the truth is the exact opposite. Bustan is the Arabic word for garden or grove. The place name is Biblical. It was the Arabs who stole the name and Arabicized it, not the other way around.