In addition to introducing the word robotics to the English language, Isaac Asimov has also made another common, if less known, contribution to language. Asimov’s groundbreaking novel “Foundation” was translated into Arabic under the title “al-Qaida”.
The Arabic word qaida – ordinarily meaning “base” or “foundation” – is also used for “groundwork” and “basis”. It is employed in the sense of a military or naval base, and for chemical formulae and geometry: the base of a pyramid, for example. Lane, the best Arab-English lexicon, gives these senses: foundation, basis of a house; the supporting columns or poles of a structure; the lower parts of clouds extending across a horizon; a universal or general rule or canon. With the coming of the computer age, it has gained the further meaning of “database”: qaida ma’lumat (information base).
This wouldn’t be the first time Foundation had deeply touched a radical audience, as Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo (known for the Tokyo sarin gas attacks) was working to build a community of scientific elite, as modelled in the novel. It might sound too incredible to be true, but the Bible of the Aum guild was, in fact, the Foundation series.
(Via comments in this MeFi discussion.)