“He is sitting walking”

Let’s see if you can make any sense of these questions and statements that are the most confusing and also just sound really oddly specific the first time you hear them:

Discussing an upcoming trip:

هتقعدي فين في الغردقة؟ – Where will you sit in Hurghada?

In a heated discussion with my landlord about an electrical problem that causes lightbulbs to burn out twice a week:

المفروض يعقدوا اكتر من تلات ايام!  – They should sit more than three days!

Inquiring as to a friend’s whereabouts:

هي قاعدة عنده – She is sitting at his place.

And the creme de la creme from our dear friend Jordanian Dialect:

 هو قاعد يمشي عالجامعة – He is sitting walking to university.

You may now be asking any of the following questions: How was I not aware all this time that Arab culture is so concerned with sitting? Have Jordanians really mastered the art of sitting and walking AT THE SAME TIME and managed to keep it quiet all these years? Or am I perhaps missing something that Team Maha is about to so graciously clarify for me?

The word for sitting in Egyptian & Shami Arabic (يقعد, اسم فاعل: قاعد\ة) is used abundantly and takes on wildly different meanings than that of its English counterpart, which is good news for anyone with a love of bizarre literal translations. يقعد often means ‘stay,’ as you might have guessed from the first and third examples, as well as ‘last’ in certain contexts (batteries, laptops, and so on). The final example given above employs a different usage than what we normally see in Egyptian, kind of working as a verb of being for a present progressive verb (aka, denoting that something is happening right now at this very second). That beautiful moment is where you get things like, ‘He is sitting walking,’ ‘The sun is sitting setting’ and so on.

Something else useful to know is that قاعد also plays a role in expressing the concept of ‘sitting around’ just like English: هو قاعد ما بيعملش حاجة – ‘He’s sitting around doing nothing.’ I find it so incredibly satisfying to learn that two languages express a concept in nearly the exact same manner, and these are rare gems for the English/Arabic combo. Another important note: after some, I don’t know, two years of using this word literally every day of my life, I still can’t pronounce the damn thing correctly half the time thanks to the formidable qaf/hazma + 3ayn combo. My best advice is to listen to a native speaker saying this word on repeat and then practice pronouncing it in the mirror until you successfully master the sound of choking on your own tongue twice in a row.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for another enlightening blog post. I love your blog! Isn’t a23’od (sorry no Arabic keys) also used a lot in the last sense in Egyptian Arabic, especially in the past tense? Howa kan a23od yetekallam, ana kont a23da a2ool, etc?

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