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JS113

Research of "Al Azif" - Arabic sources wanted!

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JS113

I'm trying to find a real Arabic source for al Azif, the "original" Arabic name for the Necronomicon. "Al" means "the" so that translates as "the Azif", sometimes written as "Kitab al Azif", where Kitab means Book so you have "Book (of) the Azif".

 

Azif is defined by Lovecraft in his History of the Necronomicon as "azif being the word used by Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) suppos’d to be the howling of daemons."
http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/hn.aspx

 

S.T. Joshi points out Lovecraft got his definition of Azif from Samuel Henley's translation of Vathek, in the notes Henley explains what "Azif" means, in this digital scan it is on page 197, the note for page 46 titled: "those nocturnal insects which presage evil"
https://ia600208.us.archive.org/18/items/vathekanarabian01beckgoog/vathekanarabian01beckgoog.pdf

 

My Arabic is very minimal, but I know there are two "A" type sounds, Alif and Ayn, so that Azif could be spelled:

 

ازÙÙ

 

(for non Arab speakers, it is written from right to left, so the sounds are
A (straight line)
Z (curved line with dot on top)
I (short i sound marked by the slash under the Z)
F (flat line with loop on one end with a dot above it)

 

or

 

أزÙÙ

 

(the same formation, but the initial A is instead the line with the Ayn symbol on top of it)

 

The second, if you add an "ah" sound at the end, becomes Azifa, which is what is translated as "draw near" or "quicken", which is what I think some people have added to Necronomicon info as the "poetic translation" as someone approaching.

 

I have seen no online sources for the spelling of Azif with the Alif sound.

 

I can't find any source for this in an online dictionary, but I'm assuming it's a rather obscure word.

 

Any scholars or Arabic speakers who could help me out?

 


Oh yeah, another interesting bit of Arabic is that most words are based on a 3 consonant root, so you can add vowels and suffixes and prefixes to make different word, sometimes around the original root meaning, but not always!

 

Here's where I got Azifa from, the first one:

 

http://lexicon.quranic-research.net/data/01_a/067_!zf.html#Ozafane

 

The sixth derivation is interesting...

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JS113

cool thanks Jeff!

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GBSteve

Google Translate doesn't help very much.

post-117-0-95308000-1507331412_thumb.jpg

 

 

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JS113

ha indeed!

 

I'm pretty sure I've got it now, the longer EE is written out so it's

عزيÙ

 

A

Z

EE

F

 

Which is "strumming" so it's a poetical way of describing the humming and chittering of desert insects, strumming of the night. Or, if you are alone in the desert, perhaps the noises of jinn sneaking up on you!

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XooX

There are lots of words that could be written in English like azif.

عزیÙ

عذیÙ

عظیÙ

عضیÙ

ازیÙ

اذیÙ

اظیÙ

اضیÙ

But I think Lovecraft just invent that word. And it might be a wrong pronunciation of other word from Arabic

عظیم

Azim

Which means the great.

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YunusWesley

It is a real word. Xoox is correct that there are a lot of potential Arabic words that could be Romanized as al-azif, but I found it on only my second guess... guided by a dim memory of having looked it up years before. 

 

From the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (THE standard Arabic-English dictionary):

 

عزÙ

[verb forms] `azafa/ya`zifu, [verbal noun] `azf, `azīf: to whistle, howl (wind); to play (on a musical instrument, tunes); to play (to or for someone), make music (for someone); [with verbal nouns `azf and `uzūf) to turn away (from something), become averse (to something), avoid, shun (something), abstain, refrain (from doing something).

 

عزيÙ

`azīf, or `azeef: whistling (of the wind); weird sound or noise

 

the verbal noun [maá¹£dar] is a noun derived from a verb, like "a singing" and "song" from "sing."  Sometimes these words are used with their verbal sense primary (a singing); sometimes the derived noun takes on shades of meaning that make it its own entity, though still connected to the verb in the minds of all educated Arabic speakers.

 

Oh, and al- means "the," the Arabic, like la Francaise, being one of those languages where the noun gets the article with the great frequency, and especially in cases of the abstraction. 

 

By not having many separate senses, I can tell that this is a pretty uncommon word. The Hans Wehr dictionary puts the oldest etymological meanings of a word first, with more contemporary usage following. And because it does not give citations or sources, I can neither confirm nor deny the folkloric interpretation of al-`azif as the buzzing of daemons... that being said, it is EXACTLY the kind of local color that your old time Orientalists were wont to latch onto by way of exoticizing the Other. And hoo boy is Vathek some old timey Orientalist palaver. 

 

JS113, you are in the ballpark connecting Ø£ (alif with hamza) to ع (the `ayn). Early Arab literati invented the hamza or glottal stop character because they recognized it as part of the Arabic language not hitherto written as a letter, and gave the new character a form based on its similarity to the `ayn. Alif is a letter that does various things. If a word starts with a vowel sound, Arabic distinguishes between words whose first vowels get elided by the last vowel of the word before them (bismi-llah, in the name of God) and words whose vowels stay independent. HOW do they stay independent? You pronounce them with a glottal stop before the vowel. In order not to render obsolete the copies of the Qur'an written before the grammarians had recognized this (pretty finicky little) detail of the language, they invented a diacritic that could be written above or below the alif in all those books. And so it continues to today.

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JS113

Shukran, ya ustathi!

 

The link JeffErwin posted before had links to Lane's dictionary too, which is a little more poetic, and references the Jann.

 

http://ejtaal.net/aa/#ll=2124

 

I can totally see it as "insects buzzing at night in the desert" sounds like the strumming of instruments. And those weird noises? Well, it could be the jann, you never know...

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SunlessNick

I wonder if I could pick brains over a definitely not real bit of Arabic, the infamous Abdul al-Hazred.  And finding something homophonic in Arabic that's not a crock.

 

There's Chaosium's Abd al-Azrad of course, where Azrad is supposed to mean devourer.  I did find something like that in Libyan Arabic, but it didn't have the sinister connotation we associate with devour in English - Abd al-Azrad came out as "servant of the muncher," which lacks mystique.

 

According to Wikipedia, Arabic translations of Lovecraft sometimes use Abdullah al-Ha Zred, with the latter part meaning something like prohibited, but no translation page I can find recognises it or anything at all like it.

 

There's also the name Zahra' - meaning shining or brilliant - again, accoring to Wikipedia, Abd al-Zahra' is sometimes used as a name by Shiite Muslims (n reverence of Fatima Zahra), but is forbidden among Sunnis, of which our man would be one.  But Abd al-Zahra' as "servant of the brilliant one" doesn't sound so bad as an epithet - though of course it would be a very different brilliant one to whom it refers.

 

Another other ideas?

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ElijahWhateley

I would tend to go with, "extremely poor transliteration by the non-Arabic speaker translating Alhazred's name" as a justification. Having worked with large quantities of legal names before, I've seen both Adbul and Alhazred show up as names that people actually have, whether or not they would make sense when translated back to Arabic.

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XooX

Hazred  might be حضرت.(Hazret) which means 'your highness'  and has to be used before a name for example Hazrat-E-Khezr.(I think this combination is only used by Persian) So i think  the name has been invented by HPL. and there is no meaning for it in Arabic.

Yunus might knows better than me. 

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Ningauble

So i think  the name has been invented by HPL. and there is no meaning for it in Arabic.

 

Yes, it was. At the age of 5 HPL was fascinated with the Arabian Nights and invented "Abdul Alhazred" as a play name for himself. As he told the story as an adult, it was his grandfather's friend Albert A. Baker (who didn't know Arabic either) who suggested the name, or approved of a name that little Howard himself suggested (HPL wasn't sure, 40 years after the fact).

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Nescio

The names of real-life classical Arab scholars are often altered rather radically in Western tradition, think e.g. of Avicenna and Averroës for Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd respectively. From that perspective Abdul Alhazred looks if anything "too Arabic", and we should allow ourselves a lot of leeway in trying to find an Arabic 'original'.

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XooX

The names of real-life classical Arab scholars are often altered rather radically in Western tradition, think e.g. of Avicenna and Averroës for Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd respectively. From that perspective Abdul Alhazred looks if anything "too Arabic", and we should allow ourselves a lot of leeway in trying to find an Arabic 'original'.

Ibn Sina was born in Tajikestan and lived in iran. So he was not Arab. Im pretty sure that those names were invented.

 

Necronomicon direct translation to Arabic is Kitab Alqatila. But this book does not exist.

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ElijahWhateley

Given that the Necronomicon is usually not portrayed as a book of poetry, I've often thought it probably contains not just a translation of the Al-Azif but considerable criticism and supplementary material. That, or it's all the subtext and coded spells of the Al-Azif written out.

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Taavi

My personal solution to the "Abdul Alhazred" problem is to assume that there is a missing word. The correct name would be Abd-al-[name of mythos entity removed by some pious scribe and/or a blank space as a shorthand for "the unnamable"] Al-Azrad. ("the muncher"? really? perhaps it's the worm that gnaws?)

 

There's a precedent here, because Nephren-Ka is a similar incomplete name. Lovecraft got the name Nephren-Ka from the legendary egyptian sorcerer-pharoah Ne-Nefer-Ka-Ptah ("The perfect avatar of Ptah") by knocking out the name of the god Ptah. Nephren-Ka, once you strip out the pseudo-greek "ph", means "The perfect avatar of". Of what? Well, when Akhenaten was in power in Egypt he had the name of rival god Amun removed from all inscriptions, and when subsequent dynasties overthrew Akhenaten's ('Effective for the Aten') Atenist religion they removed the hieroglyphs of the now-heretical god "Aten" from all his inscriptions they could find, so his name appeared (if at all) as "Effective for the ...". For the same reason Tutankhamun's name was changed from his name at birth, Tutankhaten. Clearly Nephren-Ka's patron god similarly had its name (Ny-har-rut-hotep?) removed by horrified successor dynasties.

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Nescio

Ibn Sina was born in Tajikestan and lived in iran. So he was not Arab. Im pretty sure that those names were invented.

 

His name is nevertheless Arabic ("Son of Sina"). I'm not sure which names you are saying are invented, but Averroës and Avicenna aren't, just altered in transmission.

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XooX

His name is nevertheless Arabic ("Son of Sina"). I'm not sure which names you are saying are invented, but Averroës and Avicenna aren't, just altered in transmission.

 

Ibn Sina is an Arabic name but he was not Arab. He was an Iranian scientist. I think Abdol Hazred and Al Azif had been invented. These names are not real. 

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WinstonP

Ibn Sina is an Arabic name but he was not Arab. He was an Iranian scientist. I think Abdol Hazred and Al Azif had been invented. These names are not real.

We’re very much aware Alhazrad and the Al Azif are fictional. The threads purpose was to divine a plausible Arabic linguistic origin for the made up names.

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XooX

We’re very much aware Alhazrad and the Al Azif are fictional. The threads purpose was to divine a plausible Arabic linguistic origin for the made up names.

 

Yes indeed :-D.  I have suggested my ideas on previous posts about these two names. These two names are made up without any reasonable meaning. 

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Ningauble

Yes indeed :-D.  I have suggested my ideas on previous posts about these two names. These two names are made up without any reasonable meaning. 

 

As pointed out earlier in the thread, Alhazred is a made-up name, but Azif is an existing word -- se YunusWesley's post (#7) above for the most likely interpretation.

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XooX

As pointed out earlier in the thread, Alhazred is a made-up name, but Azif is an existing word -- se YunusWesley's post (#7) above for the most likely interpretation.

 

Yes, It's a guess and its not a strong one. As i have mentioned in post #6 there are too many worlds that could be romanized as Al Azif from Arabic. But none of them has close meaning to Necronomicon. I think he made up Al Azif too, or grab it from Al Azim (the great) or other word. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.

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Nescio

But none of them has close meaning to Necronomicon.

 

Why should they? Lovecraft never said that "Necronomicon" is supposed to be a translation of the Arabic title, on the contrary he gave highly divergent translations of the two.

 

(As it happens, his translation of the Greek title - "an image of the law of the dead" - is also suspect. It rather means something like "(the book) of dead names".)

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YunusWesley

 

Yes, It's a guess and its not a strong one. As i have mentioned in post #6 there are too many worlds that could be romanized as Al Azif from Arabic. But none of them has close meaning to Necronomicon. I think he made up Al Azif too, or grab it from Al Azim (the great) or other word. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.

 

The point you missed was that Lovecraft found the word in the novel Vathek, which cites the Bedouin belief that the susurrations of insects at night are in fact caused by demons. This word was one that I, as a student of Arabic with more than a decade of study with professors of Islamic Studies, found in a standard dictionary within two minutes of looking, guided by my intuitions of what was plausible and what was not. You can doubt the derivation if you like -- you clearly have at least enough Arabic to know the alphabet -- so I encourage you to look for your proposed roots in a dictionary like Hans Wehr, the one I checked, or Lane, which is available online and gives more of the folklore touched on in Vathek.

 

The name "Necronomicon" has no connection with the name "al-Azif'. Lovecraft made up the former as early as 1922 for "The Hound," attributing it to his childhood alter-ego Abdul al-Hazred, and had a few years to gin up additional connections within his fiction. Lovecraft wrote in "The History of the Necronomicon" [1927]:

 

"In A.D. 950 the Azif, which had gained a considerable tho’ surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon."

 

Remember that Lovecraft's name-dropping technique was not fueled by any expert study of fields such as Byzantine literati, much less Arabic literature -- from Joshi's account of HPL's schooling in _I am Providence_, I doubt he had more than a nodding acquaintance with Latin or Greek -- instead, he had a capacious memory that as a youth and young man he had charged up by reading many books in English from his grandfather's library, books from the 18th and 19th centuries that would have been full of Latin and Greek quotations and cited book titles. This kind of thing is enough to give a sense of Greek names, from which he created "Theodoros Philetas" [two real Greek names -- no such historical person with both] and coined "Necronomicon". But it is just a cool made-up word drawing on Lovecraft's superficial knowledge of Greek, and can in no wise be construed as plausible medieval Greek rendering of an Arabic book title. It is a cool word: "an image of the law of the dead!!" But as Inigo Montoya might have said, "That word you keep using: I do not think it means what you think it means."

 

Quoth the wiki:

"Lovecraft wrote[7] [that the title, as translated from the Greek language, meant "an image of the law of the dead", compounded respectively from νεκÏός nekros "dead", νόμος nomos "law", and εἰκώνeikon "image".[8] Robert M. Price notes that the title has been variously translated by others as "Book of the names of the dead", "Book of the laws of the dead", "Book of dead names" and "Knower of the laws of the dead".[citation needed] S. T. Joshi states that Lovecraft's own etymology is "almost entirely unsound. The last portion of it is particularly erroneous, since -ikon is nothing more than a neuter adjectival suffix and has nothing to do with eikõn (image)." Joshi translates the title as "Book considering (or classifying) the dead.

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Ningauble

from Joshi's account of HPL's schooling in _I am Providence_, I doubt he had more than a nodding acquaintance with Latin or Greek

 

Lovecraft knew some Classical Greek, but not much -- in a 1933 letter to Howard he writes that he "didn't get beyond the first six books of Xenophon anyhow". He did know enough to devise a title for the "cosmic" sub-section of "The Poe-et's Nightmare" and to translate its epigram from Latin into Greek for "Waste Paper".

 

Latin, on the other hand... His highschool grades in Latin were high (at one point even higher than his grades in English), and his translation of the first 88 lines of Metamorphoses (made at the age of 12) is apparently pretty good, according to I Am Providence (61-63). J. Vernon Shea notes that he even corresponded in Latin with a college student; I am sure that I have seen a name for this person, but do not recall it. He frequently uses Latin snippets in his letters, and they are often of his own devising. So I would say that his command of Latin was probably at least decent.

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