Hierarchies of Lameness in Egyptian Arabic: Balls vs. Cream vs. Solid

If you want to communicate effectively with Egyptian friends, you’re going to have to know how to properly disparage, praise, and express tepid enthusiasm about events and people. In Egyptian, the three main words you’ll need to do this literally translate to “balls” “cream” and “solid.”

-The word بيضان (‘beydan’) comes from a slang term for testicles (which, incidentally, literally means eggs) and is used to say that something is lame. As in, الحفلة بيضان – The party is lame. Sometimes when someone that you’re out with is being annoying or difficult, I’ve heard friends say ايه البيضان دا which literally translates to ‘what is this ballsness.’ Go ahead and put that one in your back pocket for later.

[Fun fact: A friend of mine once had no idea that this word was vulgar and actually used it in a FORMAL, WRITTEN PAPER that he submitted to his 60-something-year-old muhagabba FusHa teacher. Imagine just casually weaving the word balls into an academic paper like it was nothing. Awkward.]

-If someone asks you about something you did–a restaurant you visited, for example–and you want to say that it was alright but nothing particularly special, you’d say that it was “2ishta” (lit. cream). 2ishta actually has many purposes, including harassment, and can also be used to express agreement. If someone asks you if you want to get Yemeni food at 8pm, responding with ‘2ishta’ means something like ‘cool.’

-If, however, you wanted to say that this experience was super awesome, you’d instead say جامد جدا – “gamed gidan” – which literally means “really solid.” Alternatively, if you’re around a crew that loves to swear, you could say جامد نييييييييييك which literally translates to ‘fuck you solid,’ which is (unintuitively) a very positive thing. And the longer you hold the ‘eeeeeeeeeeee’ in the middle, the better it was.

Also keep in mind that all of the above sounds weird when used in front of adults–as a general rule, don’t use these around someone until they’ve used them around you first. You’ve been warned.

4 comments

  1. Bidan is basically exactly the same as using ‘bollocks’ in British English. I.e. ‘the BBC is bollocks’… to mean ‘biased, generalising nonsense’. Not to be confused with ‘the dog’s bollocks’ which means something is very excellent I.e. ‘this pint of Hoegaarden is the dog’s bollocks’ which it always is. Don’t think the same is true in Arabic but am happy to try and bring it into the lexicon I.e. ‘mta3m abu yusuf fi mohandeseen bidan elkelb’.

    1. It’s like how ‘balls’ can be a good thing in American English, ie: ‘that place is the balls.’ I say full speed ahead ya Jasmine, beydan el kelb sounds super catchy.

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