Team Nisreen video transcription: حلاوة الورح

This transcription is of a scene from حلاوة الروح (‘sweetness/beauty of the soul’, though a literal translation doesn’t quite cover the meaning), which if I remember correctly came out a couple of years ago during peak musalsal season. In it our two heroes, Sara and Isma’il, meet in a Beirut bar by chance. Isma’il is the brother of a childhood friend of Sara’s, Nisreen. Sara, an aspiring filmmaker, has just got back to Beirut after months staying at her father’s house in Dubai. She has left without telling her father, who runs a TV station there and had promised her a job, after months of disappointment in which she has not even seen him once. She tells her Lebanese friend (whose name I have forgotten) about her plans, and halfway through the conversation Isma’il comes over to introduce himself.


وحياة الله انتي مجنونة. حدا بصيرلو يعيش بدبي بجي بهالوضع ع لبنان؟
wé7yaat aLLa énti majnuune. 7ada biSérlo y3iish b-dubayy biji b-ha-lwaD@3 3a lébnaan?
I swear to God, you’re mad. What kind of a person who’s able to live in Dubai comes to Lebanon with the way the situation is now?

وحياة الله – ‘by God’s life’ (w of oaths again). You might notice the e-like aa that this character has. This is because she’s Lebanese – one of the most marked features of the Lebanese dialect is this high aa sound.

حدا بصيرلو يعيش… بجي… this sentence is literally ‘would someone for whom it is possible (بصيرلو) to live in Dubai come to Lebanon in this situation?’ بصرلو يعيش بدبي is a relative clause attached to 7ada. As you can see, the long vowel in biSiir is shortened to biSér-lo when -lo is attached (as discussed here). Rhetorical questions using this structure are very common – في حدا بينسى لغتو الام؟ ‘what kind of a person forgets their native language?’

Someone like me.

Literally ‘yes’ (in answer to the rhetorical question in the sentence before, but translated liberally by me so that the English makes sense).

لإنك حمارة
la2énnek @7maara
Because you’re an idiot.

حمارة – both 7maar and ja7@sh (literally ‘donkey’) are used liberally to mean ‘idiot’, as in that Lindsay Lohan post.

لك لأ ولي. بس ناوية اعمل فيلمي الاول وشارك فيه بمهرجان المحطة اللي بديرها سيد الوالد واخد الجائزة الدهبية
lak la2 wlee. bass naawye a3mel filmi l2awwal w shaarek fii bmahrajaan élma7aTTa lli bidiira sayyed élwaaled w 2aakhod éjjaa2ize ddahabiyye.
Mate, no. But I’m planning on making my first film, entering it in the competition that father dearest’s TV channel is putting on, and winning gold.

ولي – the feminine equivalent of ولو, which is a familiar term of address similar here to saying ‘no, man’ (though obviously gendered).

ناوية اعمل… شارك… واخد – naawi and its feminine and plural variants are used in the meaning of ‘intending, planning to’, and of course are followed by subjunctive like other expressions of desire and intention. Here there are three verbs, all in firstp person singular: a3mel ‘(I) make’, shaarek ‘(I) participate’ and aakhod ‘(I) take’.

شارك فيه بمهرجان المحطة اللي بديرا سيد الوالد – ‘participate with it in the [film] festival of the [TV] station which sayyed élwaaled runs’. fii is ‘with it’, referring to the film. élli bidiira is ‘that (he) runs’ or ‘that he manages’ (he’s the مدير) – the -a, of course, refers back to the ma7aTTa.

سيد الوالد – a polite, Syrian way of referring to a father (feminine ست الوالدة). Here Sara is presumably using it to emphasise the distant relationship she has with her dad.

ليش نكاية يعني؟
leesh, nkaaye ya3ni?
What, to get back at him?

نكاية nkaaye (pronounced by Sara nikaaye) is literally an act of defiance or spite. In fuSHa the expression نكايةً فيه means ‘to spite him’.

اي نكاية
ee nikaaye.
Yeah, to get back at him.

ومعك تدفعي حقا لهلنكاية؟
w ma3ek tédfa3i 7a22a la-ha-lénkaaye?
And have you got enough money to get back at him?

معك تدفعي – ma3i, ma3ek etc followed by a subjunctive means ‘to have enough (money) to…’

حقها لهالنكاية – ‘the price of this act of defiance’? حق often appears in iDaafa meaning ‘the price of’ (presumably originally ‘the right [price] of’, ‘the [fair] cost of’). The -a la- construction is the same one mentioned here.

جمعت شوي من المصاري اللي اغدقها عليي سيد الوالد تعويضا عن اني ما شفتو بدبي ورح اشتري كامريا وقولي يا معين
jama3@t shwayy mn élmaSaari élli aghdaqa 3aleyyi sayyed élwaaled, ta3wiiDan 3an énni maa shéfto bdubayy, w ra7 éshteri kaamera w 2uuli yaa mu3iin.
I saved up some of the money that father dearest rained down on me to make up for the fact that I didn’t see him in Dubai, and I’m going to buy a camera, and… say good luck!

المصاري اللي اغدقها عليي سيد الوالد – the money that sayyed élwaaled poured [it] down on me. The -a here refers to مصاري, which can be plural or singular feminine depending on the context. اغدق is a fuSHa word – form IV – and Sara pronounces it with a qaaf although a colloquial form ghada2 from the same root also exists.

تعويضا عن اني ما شفتو – ta3wiiDan is a مفعول لأجله, a distinctly fuSHa construction that we see most commonly in speech in a few set phrases (محبةً بـ ‘out of love for’, خوفًا من ‘for fear that’ etc), especially when somebody is trying to be a bit more eloquent than usual. This whole sentence is a bit fuSHa-y, probably again to emphasise how distant her dad was being. تعويضا عن انو is literally ‘to make up for/as compensation for [the fact] that’.

قولي يا معين – literally ‘say O Helper’, literally a request for help from God – in usage something like ‘wish me luck’.

موفقة اي
mwaffa2a ee
Yeah, good luck.

He’s coming.

Literally ‘he’s come’.

معناتا هو كمان بيعرفك
ma3naata huwwe kamaan bya3rfek
Then he must recognise you too…

معناتا – literally ‘its meaning’.

بيعرفك – as we’ll see below 3éref is often better translated with ‘recognise’ than ‘know’.

مسا الخير
masa lkheer
Good evening.

مسا النور
masa nnuur

عفوا بس… سارا مو؟
3afwan bass saara muu?
Sorry, but… it’s Sara, right?

عفوا – pardon, excuse me, sorry.


Do you remember me?

Like lots of other verbs mentioned in this post, tzakkar is often used in the past when in English a present would be used – literally ‘have you remembered me?’

بصراحة طول الوقت كنت عم شبه عليك بس لأ ما تذكرت
bSiraa7a Tool élwa2@t ként 3am shabbeh 3aleek bass la2a maa tzakkar@t
To be honest, I’ve been trying to work out where I know you from this whole time, but no, I don’t remember.

شبه عليك – literally something like ‘making similar with someone’, i.e. trying to work out who it is you look like, comparing you with other people in my mind

اسماعيل اسماعيل اخوها لنسرين الاحمد
smaa3iil, smaa3iil, akhuwwa la-nisriin él2a7mad
Isma’il – Nisreen al-Ahmad’s brother.

اه اهلين اهلين اسماعيل كيفك؟ لك متغير كتير عن جد ما عرفتك. كيفا نسرين, وين صارت, شو الاخبار؟
aah 2ahleen 2ahleen smaa3iil! kiifak? lak métghayyer @ktiir, 3an jadd maa 3réftak! kiifa nisriin, ween Saaret, shu l2akhbaar?
Right! Hi, hi – how are you doing? You’ve changed so much – I honestly didn’t recognise you! How’s Nisreen? Where is she these days, what’s she up to?

متغير – ‘having changed’. This is a participle with resultative meaning.

عن جد – seriously, honestly.

ما عرفتك – the word عرف here is in the meaning of ‘come to know’ or ‘recognise’ and not ‘to know’. ما عرفتك can mean both ‘I don’t recognise you’ (with 3éref here working like tzakkar above) or ‘I didn’t recognise you’.

نسرين… عطتك عمرا.
nisriin… 3aTétek 3émra.
Nisreen… passed away.

عطتك عمرا – a euphemism for ‘died’, literally ‘gave you her life’. The etymological logic here is similar to the one you get in the expression العمر الك when somebody dies.

شو؟ كيف يعني, بالاحداث؟
shu? kiif ya3ni… bil2a7daas?
What? How? In the ‘situation’?

الاحداث – a euphemism you will hear all the time if you talk to Syrians. Literally ‘the events’ (plural of حدث), referring to the situation in Syria.

هي اي بالاحداث. من شي سنة تقريبا. انا اسف, ما كان بدي ديقك بهيك موضوع. قوليلي انتي كيفك؟
ان شاء الله تمام؟ مستقرة هون ببيروت؟
hiyye… ee, bil2a7daas. mén shi séne ta2riiban. 2ana 2aasef, maa kaan béddi dayy2ék bheek mawDuu3. 2uuliili énti kiifek? nshaLLa tamaam? méstaqérra hoon bbeeruut?
Uhh… yeah, in the situation. About a year ago. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to bother you with something like that. Tell me, how are you – good I hope? Are you living here in Beirut?

شي سنة – shi often appears with singular nouns meaning ‘some’ or acting like an indefinite article. With expressions of time it usually means ‘about’.

بهيك موضوع – ‘with that sort of subject’

مستقرة – literally ‘settled’

اي. من وقت طلعنا من الشام  اجينا لهون على بيروت. بعد فترة رحت لعند ماما على مصر وبعدين رحت لعند ابي بدبي. قعدت شي تلت تشر واليوم اجيت اليوم وصلت.
ee… mén wa2t @Tlé3na mn éshshaam éjiina lahoon 3ala beeruut. Ba3@d fatra ré7@t la3énd maama 3ala maS@r w ba3deen ré7@t la3énd 2abi 3ala dubayy. 23édt shi tlét téshor w élyoom éjiit, élyoom wSél@t.
Yeah… When we left Damascus, we came here to Beirut. After a while I went to stay with Mum in Egypt, and afterwards I went to stay with my father in Dubai. I was there about three months and I came back today, I arrived today.

لهون على بيروت, لعند ماما على مصر, لعند ابي على دبي – all of these are examples of two directional phrases appearing together in a way that cannot be literally translated into English since we would prefer ‘in’ for the second one: (‘to here to Beirut’, ‘to by mum to Egypt’, ‘to by my father to Dubai’). Another example is فات لعندي ع الغرفة ‘he came into my room’ or اجى لعنا ع البيت ‘they came to see us at home’.

قعدت شي تلت تشر – the verb 2é3ed is literally ‘to sit’ but is used to mean ‘stay’ (usually temporarily) – وين قاعدة؟ ‘where are you staying?’ shi tlét téshor shows off the special plural used with numbers in téshor ‘months’, and has another shi (here we can say ‘some three months’ in English).

حمد لله ع السلامة
7amdélla 3assalaame.
I’m glad you arrived safely.

Maybe a more natural equivalent might be ‘welcome back’. A polite thing to say to someone who’s just got back off a journey – ‘thanks be to God for your safety’.

طب يلا تفضل عود معنا
Tabb yaLLa tfaDDal 3ood ma3na.
OK, well – sit down, come and sit with us!

تفضل عود معنا – go ahead, sit with us. 3ood is the irregular imperative of قعد.

لأ معليشي انا بس حبيت هيك… شفتك وقلت بسلم عليكي
la2 ma3leeshi. 2ana bass 7abbeet heek… shéftek w2él@t bsallem 3aleeki
Ah, don’t worry about it, uhh… I just wanted to… I saw you and I thought I’d say hi.

معليشي – a variant of the more common ma3leesh, used for various purposes including ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘pardon’, ‘never mind’ and here a (semi-sincere?) refusal of the invitation.

حبيت هيك – an incomplete sentence. ‘I wanted to… you know…’ heek is a filler, ‘that sort of thing’.

قلت بسلم عليكي – ‘I said’ (قلت) is used with a subjunctive or a b-present to mean idiomatically ‘I thought I would’. sallam 3ala – originally ‘say salaam to’ – now means ‘say hi to’, or by extension ‘shake hands with’. When someone leaves you can say سلملي على… ‘say hi to… for me’.

اذا كان عندك وقت خلينا نشرب شي شغلة
iza kaan 3éndak wa2@t khalliina néshrab shi shéghle
If you’ve got time why don’t we have a drink?

اذا كان عندك وقت – the kaan here arguably adds an element of reasonable doubt here for Isma’il to back out (rather than just saying iza 3éndak, which is equally grammatical). ‘If you happen to have the time…’

خلينا نشرب شي شغلة – let’s drink something. shi shéghle is that shi yet again (‘some’) plus ‘thingy’ or ‘thing’, shéghle.

Go ahead.

He gets the literal go-ahead from her friend.

طيب اوكي. لو سمحت
Tayyeb oke. law sama7@t!
OK then. Excuse me!

طيب – OK then.

اوكي – used mainly in the sense of ‘agreed’, indicating acceptance.

لو سمحت – the usual way to say ‘excuse me’ to waiters, for example.

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