Descendant from the Arabic language

Background on informant: Informant is a senior at USC, studying communications. She was born and raised in Dubai and plans to move there after graduation. Her father went to school in the United States, as did her sister.

Informant: There’s this one joke or myth I guess. The guy who structured the Arabic language grammar — my dad jokes how we are related to him because his name in Persian means something in relation to apples. People in our family eat apples a lot so we are definitely related, my dad says.  Also, our last name means “intelligent person” — well his last name — and so since he put together the grammar of the Arabic language and we like apples, my family believes that we are therefore related. It’s some weird logic. I’ve never taken it seriously. But names are important. Names are everything. That’s how you are differentiated, whose an Emirati, whose not an Emirati.

Analysis: This myth, which could also be classified as a sort of familial belief, was extremely difficult to follow and the informant was asked to clarify several times. But perhaps that is precisely the point. At this point, the myth that the family is descended from the man who structured Arabic grammar, has sort of morphed into a belief that finds justifications for its existence rather than existing because of the so-called evidence, or the justifications.  That is how meaningful this myth is to the family. In this sense, you could say it is a myth because you could almost say it is sacred. The myth also sheds light on how the family exists within the context of society and the importance of names and languages. “Names are everything,” the informant said. “That’s how you are differentiated, whose an Emirati, whose not an Emirati.” Therefore, this belief is not just a belief for its on sake. In fact, it is a belief that is intimately tied to contemporary social standing. There is, in this sense then, something very much at stake in believing the myth, despite the “weird logic.” The informant might never have taken it seriously but there’s a reason, as she even concedes, that a myth so tenuously justified, persists in her family.