Jump to content

"Iranian" or "Persian" - Which is More Correct?


DonRocks
 Share

Recommended Posts

This sounds like a small issue, but it's one which I've wondered about for years. I tend to call places like Moby Dick, Shamshiry, Kabob Bazaar, and just now, Cafe Shiraz, "Persian restaurants," but that's only because my "Persian" (or are they "Iranian?") friends seem to gravitate towards that word.

I know for a fact that during the hostage crisis from 1979-1981, the people I hung out with described themselves as "Persian" because of the stigma associated with Iran, but that can't possibly be the case anymore, can it?

Is one more correct than the other? I'm sure "Iran" and "Persia" have traditionally different boundaries, but I'm asking specifically about describing restaurants and food; the people themselves to a lesser extent. I'm very interested in learning more about this.

When it comes to issues like this, I tend to value answers, opinions, preferences, and advice very highly from members of the ethnic group itself. Anyone?

Cheers,

Rocks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My understanding is that "Iranian" tends to refer to the country and "Persian" to the ethnic group. Within Iran there are Persians, along with Azerbaijanis, Arabs, Armenians, and other groups. That doesn't answer your question though, because even with that definition there could be Iranian food and Persian food (and hence restaurants), and there's got to be significant overlap between the two (in the sense that the food of Iran is obviously heavily influenced by the food of the Persians).

I'm done being unhelpful for now...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know if this might help?

My brief understanding is that Persians speak Farsi and have slightly different religious beliefs (I was told more are Zoroastrian) than Iranian and their language.

I had a nice conversation with a Persian at the Rite-Aid in Merrifield one day (he takes very good passport photos if anyone needs one), and he recommended Shamshiry and Alborz Persian in Vienna as two good places to try Persian cuisine, with the latter being more authentic.

Edited by goodeats
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Iranian/Persian research analyst says that the two are fairly interchangable. And that Persian is still used mostly to hide the stigma of being associated with Iran.

Amusingly, Iran (or some variant) has always been dominant as the local name for the area and Persia was most used by the Greeks. Internationally, most used Persia until the shah formally asked the rest of the world to call it Iran.

Persian comes from Fars or Pars the province that contains Shiraz and is the homeland of the Persians. The "P" got changed into "F" (as with the language Farsi) when the Arab speaking Muslims invaded. There is no "P" phoneme in Arabic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's see what the OED has to say about the derivation of "Persian" (fair use, I think):

Etymology: Originally partly < Middle French persien, adjective (14th cent.; French persien (now rare)) < Perse , the French name for Persia (classical Latin Persia , Hellenistic Greek Περσίς , Old Persian Pārsa ( > Persian Pārs , Arabic Fārs (also Fāris , with assimilation to Arabic syllable structure) name of a province in south-western Iran: see Parsee n. and adj.)), a country in the Near East, now called Iran + -ien -ian suffix, and partly < Anglo-Norman and Middle French persan (French persan ), (adjective) of or relating to Persia (c1150 in Old French), (noun) native of Persia (a1184 in Old French as Persant ), the language of Persia (c1225 in Old French as Persant in an apparently isolated attestation; subsequently from 1616), male figure supporting an entablature (1701) < Perse (see above) + -an -an suffix. In later use directly < the name of Persia + -an suffix. Compare Spanish persiano , noun and adjective (mid 13th cent.), †persano , noun (1377), Portuguese persiano , adjective (14th cent. as persião ), Italian persiano , noun and adjective (13th cent.). Compare earlier Perse n.1 and later Persic adj. and n.

With the γ forms compare Anglo-Norman persin (c1170 or earlier).

Persia occurs as a place name in English contexts from Old English onwards. Compare also Old English and Middle English Persida , Middle English Percy , Percye , Persee , Persie , Middle English and early modern English Persy (compare also place names cited s.v. Perse n.1).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interestingly enough, the word "peach" is actually derived from the word "Persian", or "Persian apple" to be more precise. While the peach tree is native to China, it was brought to the West by Persian traders, hence the name.

Iran is a political designation instituted by Reza Pahlavi in rejection of the Greek-derived (or so he thought) Persia.

Iran means "land of the 'Er'", or Iranian people (don't we just love recursiveness on this board?), and is related to the word "Aryan".

Er, and Iran, are indigenous to the region, and pre-date Pars, Farsi, Persian, etc. which all come, historically, from Arab invaders and occupiers of the region.

So, to come full circle, it seems that in order to signal connection to the authentic culture, Persians of today are rejecting the indigenously derived--but politically motivated--name in favor of the name given by invaders, conquerors, occupiers and colonialists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't help but think how well-timed this discussion is, since Bravo TV will soon be airing a program that promises to do for the Persian-American culture what it has done to the restaurant culture here in America, bringing the class, illumination, authenticity and reality that only Bravo can, enriching the culture for all.

I am sure all of our questions will be addressed in the most informative way possible and a whole new generation of cultural heroes will be born!

Bravo TV? I say Bravo to YOU!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to call places like Moby Dick, Shamshiry, Kabob Bazaar, and just now, Cafe Shiraz, "Persian restaurants," but that's only because my "Persian" (or are they "Iranian?") friends seem to gravitate towards that word.

I know for a fact that during the hostage crisis from 1979-1981, the people I hung out with described themselves as "Persian" because of the stigma associated with Iran, but that can't possibly be the case anymore, can it?

It can still be the case, as Iran still elicits strong emotions of their citizens and the world with their geo/political actions.

Your experience is precisely mine, having a college-aged Persian friend who insists on being called Persian for just these reasons. She supports and prays for her Persian family and brethren, but keeps her distance from Iran the state/government.

For me, that's from "the horses mouth" and good enough for me. If someone else of common decent prefers I call them Iranian, then so be it, I will for them. I just sense there aren't many of those folks in these parts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It can still be the case, as Iran still elicits strong emotions of their citizens and the world with their geo/political actions.

Your experience is precisely mine, having a college-aged Persian friend who insists on being called Persian for just these reasons. She supports and prays for her Persian family and brethren, but keeps her distance from Iran the state/government.

For me, that's from "the horses mouth" and good enough for me. If someone else of common decent prefers I call them Iranian, then so be it, I will for them. I just sense there aren't many of those folks in these parts.

This has turned into a very interesting conversation (despite apparently not having heard from any Iranian-Americans).

And yet, ten years from now, this could also be embarrassingly dated (and I hope it is because nobody should be ashamed of their ethnicity unless they're from New Jersey - you know, that place with all the smokestacks where the Turnpike runs through - the one you drive up, occasionally stopping to use the restroom, being very careful not to touch anything, when you're on the way to New York).

Hee hee hee! I'm going to Hell, all right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

F is a labio-dental fricative; the voiceless bilabial fricative is a different and much rarer sound.

I used to teach this material to callow undergraduates. I have heard all the jokes before ...

Ahhhh...That is true of the "F" in English (which actually most often tends to the affricate, when followed by a liquid, or low vowel or dipthong--anything but a high vowel really), but in most Middle Eastern, African and Asian/Pacific Rim languages, it is closer to the voiceless bilabial fricative (the phi symbol in IPA) than the labio-dental. It's all fluid points on a continuum anyway, isn't it...unless you taught prescriptive linguistics (insert un-smiley Kolobok here).

I never made it to college, so it appears my callowness is not limited to such a brief period and remains on-going, but in this case, I am not aware of any jokes.

Now when it comes to effecting glottal stops, that's a whole 'nother matter...

By the way, do you have a sister named Kat A. Phor whose always going on about the future?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...