Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Isis

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Isis

Article excerpt

'This'll make you laugh,' said my husband, looking up from the Daily Telegraph . For once he was right. It was a letter from the Pagan Federation complaining that the acronym Isis 'is likely to form an inadvertent association in the minds of hearers between Sunni jihadists and followers of the goddess Isis'. These 'may be caught up in unintended fallout'.

They are not the only ones. Apart from the army of bloodhthirsty Islamists, Isis is a centre for scientific research at Harwell, near Oxford; a group of schools teaching English; an 'end to end' professional photographic service in Clerkenwell; a private equity investor; and a seven-seater from Toyota. With no connection whatsoever with the jihadists, any of these outfits might easily be subject to accidental drone strikes.

Even if they were not, they are in the same fix as the worshippers of the (I had thought discredited) Egyptian goddess. When acronyms collide the most prominent often drives others to extinction. The popular slimmers' biscuits called Aids rapidly disappeared after the rise of the acronym for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. …

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