Middle East / Near East /Naher Osten

Germans say Naher Osten, British the Middle East, Americans, at least the State Department, apparently the Near East.

Via languagehat, who is rather scornful of the whole thing, William Safire’s language column on the topic.

bq. Alistair Cooke of BBC fame called me with an assignment: ”The State Department still has a Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The rest of the world calls that area the Middle East. Do something about this right away.”languagehat says:

bq. Once again, William Safire goes wandering through the vast countryside of the English language, stopping here to pluck a daisy and there to misidentify a tree. Today’s column begins with a thoroughly tedious mastication of the “Near East” vs. “Middle East” issue. Can there be anyone who hasn’t come across this before, either choosing one phrase or the other or deciding that it isn’t worth spending valuable brain cells on? But good W.S. can’t find anything else to maunder about, so he chews on this for awhile, citing uninteresting quotes and coming to unsurprising conclusions. There is, however, one novelty: after quoting several definitions of “Near/Middle East, now used interchangeably,” all variations on “the countries of Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa,” he delivers himself of the following thought: “I’d toss in Morocco and Tunisia.”

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