I have been hesitant, for a while, to write this post. I have this image in my mind of what a writer is, or rather what a writer should consider himself to be, which is the image of a soldier guarding an entrance to the masses’ conscience. He has a weapon with limited ammo. The ammo and the vitality of the entrance he is guarding depend on the writer himself. We can assume the better the writer, the more vital his entrance gets and the less ammo he has. I imagine that his ammo is reduced, because when you have people reading what you write and accepting it, you aught to select what you write about with more carefulness. For example, I shouldn’t expect, nor accept in case it does happen, my favourite political writer discussing at length the pros and cons of peeing standing. That’s an extreme example but the idea is the same. I chose this unlikely situation because, to me, there is little or no difference between urine and a certain immoral public figure one of my favourite writers recently criticised at length. Some things, and some people, don’t deserve the distinguish of being mentioned, let alone discussed by a widely respected writer. Obviously, I’m not referring to myself any more.
That, in short, is why I was going back and forth trying to decide whether I should write about Franco Arab or not. Franco Arab, or Franco, is a way of writing Arabic words with English letters. If you asked why would someone do such an inconvenient, to both read and write, a thing such as this, I will gladly tell you: “keyboard layouts, man!”. You see, the Arabic speaking people in western countries were facing a little problem writing in their native language, since the laptops, phones and tablets they bought didn’t have any Arabic letters printed on the keys or didn’t have an Arabic keyboard layout already installed on them. Officially, and logically, that’s how this misshapen, disfigured way of writing started. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. An immediate problem surfaced when people began using this method, other than the dramatic increase in mental health patients, was the Arabic letters that have no equivalent in English. That was quickly solved though, using certain numbers to substitute the letters for which there is no equivalent. So, the evil entity behind all bad things began choosing numbers for these letters, apparently based on nothing else but the widely discredited criterion ‘why not ?!’ and everyone followed.
I can’t decide if my vexation with this method of writing is based solely on my apprehension towards most new things, or it really is its baselessness, deformity and inherent effect of worsening the language itself. Because it’s not enough to match two letters, you have to match the way they are spelled as well. Almost every letter in the Arabic language has a soft and a thick case, but Franco users write them both using one English letter that sometimes two letters in Arabic are matched with only one English letter. Imagine reading entire paragraphs where there is no letter ‘P’. Every word with a ‘P’ in it will be replaced with a soft ‘B’. There is no ‘penguin’, ‘pen’, ‘pig’, or ‘police’, they are now written as ‘benguin’, ‘ben’, ‘big’, and ‘bolice’. I know I wouldn’t be the only to start reciting every curse word I know in alphabetical order and preferably every curse will have a ‘P’ in it.
It gets worse, too. Almost every one I have seen writing in Franco can’t resist the temptation to insert several English words every two or three sentences, making the monstrosity that is his writing even more appalling to people who can actually write complete sentences in either of the two languages that Franco users so carelessly maim. And since most of them often have the same lingual prowess of your average YouTube commenter, you will be even more distressed by misspellings, grammatical errors and, at times, a complete ignorance of some words meaning. What’s more, they, the Franco users, are annoyed by people who reply or address them in the same language they use bits and pieces from, English, and ask, feigning a non-existent passion for their native tongue, that you should speak the language of your prophet and your Qur’an. Those same people, while they may not say it outright, despise and look down on those who write Arabic as it has been intended to be written, in Arabic letters.
There is some psychological explanation for people’s need to imitate those they see as superior to themselves by trying to look and act like them, while trying so hard to deny it at the same time, but that is another topic’s discussion. I can’t help but remember the 1940s young black men’s habit to ‘conk’ their hair to make it look as smooth and straight as the white man’s by putting burning hot lye on it, literally burning their flesh and enduring so much pain to be more ‘white’. The question now would be, why hasn’t this appalling method of writing disappeared when you can have an Arabic keyboard on almost every platform without so much as restarting your phone ?!