by Zoe Pollock

Josh Dzieza reports on the poetic tradition throughout the Middle East, and how phrases have been transformed into chants:

One chant in particular has become widespread, showing up on signs and graffiti: “The people want the regime to fall.” Though it has a regular meter, this chant is unrhymed and not in colloquial Egyptianit’s in modern classical Arabic. Colloquial Egyptian is as different from modern classical Arabic as contemporary English is from Shakespearian English, but unlike colloquial Egyptian, modern classical Arabic is understandable to Arabic speakers who hear it on Al Jazeera. “That tells you who they think their audience is,” says [Elliot Colla, chair of the Arabic and Islamic Studies department at Georgetown University].

It’s also important to note that the chant doesn’t mention which people want which regime to fall: “A Yemeni could say that, a Jordanian could say thatand I suspect they already are.” It’s a slogan designed to spread.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.