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Grammar jihad: Arabic spelling mistakes earn hefty fines

A, B, C, democracy, equality, freedom [Getty illustrative photo]

Date of publication: 5 February, 2018

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In what is perhaps a world first, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is to impose a $275 fine for Arabic grammar bloopers on signs and billboards.
In what is perhaps a world first, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates is to impose a fine for Arabic grammar bloopers on signs and billboards.

The new fine is included in a raft of advertisement-related penalties approved by the Urban Planning department of Abu Dhabi, reported Al-Bayan newspaper on Monday.

The fine has been set at AED1000, or roughly $275, in addition to the costs of correcting or removing the billboard in violation.

While translation and language errors resulting in damage have been prosecuted around the world before, this may be the first measure of its kind penalising typos and bad grammar.

Anecdotal evidence suggests grammar mistakes are common in the region, especially in the Gulf states where non-Arab expats dominate many sectors, including PR, and outnumber native Arabic speakers.

But the UAE, which many have labelled a quasi-police state, is also known for excessively penalising acts seen as mundane elsewhere, and arresting people for trivial infractions and "thought-crime", such as "sympathising with Qatar".

As just one example out of many, the UAE's Supreme Court last year sentenced an Omani man for three years for "mocking" the tiny Gulf state on WhatsApp messenger.

Emirati police were then ordered to arrest two men after a video of them dancing "suggestively" while wearing UAE military uniforms was shared widely on social media.

A Palestinian man was also sentenced to three years in prison and fined 50,000 Dirhams ($13,600) after allegedly "insulting the UAE" on social media.

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