Posted by: Lotfi Frigi | February 1, 2010

Saudis Reject Pakistani Diplomat Whose Name Translates to ‘Biggest Dick’


Let’s have some fun with politics today, boys and girls… You can’t make this stuff up! Last week, the Saudi government rejected the ambassadorship of Pakistani Diplomat Akbar Zeb (Yes, Arabic speakers, you read it right!) because his name translates in Arabic to ‘Biggest Dick’. Now the nominee has an extensive and successful diplomatic career and he served his country in diverse positions, no pun intended, throughout the years. Now, the question is who’s to blame for this?

1- Certainly not the gentleman! He was given that name at birth and it does not mean in his language what it means in Arabic. And besides, his name did not prevent him, up to this point, from having a successful career. My etymological research on the name didn’t yield much but I know that many Emperors and Shahs of India shared the name Aurang-Zeb, a Persian title roughly translating to “befitting the throne”. So the name has an aura and some prestige to it.

2- Even though it would seem foolish for the Saudis to humiliate a respected diplomat and slap Pakistan in the face in front of the whole world to see, I’m kind of giving them a pass on this. Why? I can imagine the roundtables and the meetings and the discussions that must have gone on before this decision was taken by the Saudis. I’m sure their reasoning went along these lines. Imagine the meetings that the Foreign Ministry will have with this guy and some long-bearded Motawaas (religious preachers) present in these meetings will have to address the gentleman as “Your Excellency Biggest Dick”!… Imagine a family sitting down to dinner, watching the news. “His Excellency, Ambassador Biggest Dick refuses to be in bed with some schmuck’s policy…”. Or the the ticker on the bottom of the screen reading endlessly that “Biggest Dick will take a firm stand on the Taliban issue”… But seriously, for those of us who lived or have been in Saudi Arabia, we know how uptight that society is and are not surprised at all with this decision. Actually, any other decision would have greatly surprised me!

3- The Pakistani government is at fault here, if you ask me. That is a major diplomatic faux-pas. They did not do their homework on this one, folks! If they did, they would have avoided themselves and the poor fellow the embarrassment, and would have spared their ally from being in the very uncomfortable corner they put them in.

And for the curious minds out there, this is not the first time such an incident has happened. I know of two on top of my head. Netanyahu, the ex-Israeli Prime Minister, called off a visit to Egypt more than a decade ago, when Egyptian newspapers published unflattering cartoons about his name a few days before his planned visit to Cairo. In Egyptian Arabic, his name translates roughly to “What a stinko!”. Also, in the early ’70’s The Shah of Iran unceremoniously dismissed the prospective Greek ambassador, a Mr. Kiriakos, to his country because the gentleman’s name translated to men and women genitalia in Farsi…

We also had a Dick a short while ago ruling among us here. His last name was Cheney. I wonder if he would’ve had the political career he has if his last name were Less or Limp… Should we conclude then that if a Dick does not have an epithet, an adjective or worse, a superlative, people can live with it? When it comes to your name, qualify or quantify your noodle, and there goes your career!

Like A. Hall :) used to say, “things that make you go hhhmmmm…”!

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