Persian: that’s the word I’ll always associate with Shusha Guppy. Uttered with a luxurious protraction of the first syllable — Purrrzhen, as if a … well, Persian cat were being stroked—it conjured up all those Oriental refinements rudely swept aside by the ayatollahs, a lost world of Hafez recitations and elaborate compliments (taarof, as she taught me to call them) paid in jewel-like gardens. Though she’d occasionally employ the bare geopolitical term “Iran,” the adjective was always “Persian,” and so was the name, in English, of her mother tongue—Allah help anyone who referred to it in her hearing as “Farsi,” which, she would witheringly point out, was like saying “Deutsch” or “français.”— Ben Downing, The New Criterion
JUST THE OTHER day I remembered what was quite possibly the nerdiest and most wonkish social interaction I ever had. Summering in Maine a summer or two ago, I came across Luke P., who studies Persian at SOAS here in London, standing on Sunset Rock staring out towards Strawberry Island. There were six or seven of us there, and in the course of conversation Luke made some rather clever or obscure point about Islamic architecture, perhaps it was Cairene or maybe even within his Iranian remit — I don’t remember.
What I did remember is that the substance of this remark, seemingly original, was in fact cribbed in its entirety from Hillenbrand, which is to say from Professor Robert Hillenbrand’s Islamic Art & Architecture, pretty much the standard work on the subject. Like a flash, I came back, “Pah! You got that straight from Hillenbrand!” A flick of the cigarette, and a wry smile emerging from the corner of his mouth, Luke immediately and very graciously conceded this as being the case.
The lesson our tutors taught us at university rings true: always attribute and acknowledge sources! You never know who’ll have read Hillenbrand.