This guest post was written by Hossam Abouzahr, the man behind The Living Arabic Project (www.livingarabic.com), a compilation of multiple dialect and Fusha dictionaries that contains the largest Egyptian dialect dictionary and (what will hopefully soon be) the largest Levantine dialect dictionary. A half-breed (Arab-American), he found out that Arabic is actually beautiful after escaping from Arabic classes and meeting cool teachers who introduced him to the fun side of the language.

Anis Freyha, the famous Lebanese linguist and professor of Semitic languages, wrote that he actually planned to make his dictionary of Lebanese colloquial dictionary, معجم ألفاظ العامية اللبنانية., English – Arabic, but then felt that it was important for Arabs to know the origin of their language, and made it Arabic – Arabic instead. I’m translating his dictionary now for The Living Arabic Project, and what I’ve noticed is that at times the dictionary focuses more on the origin of the words than it is about their meanings.

The origin of words shows how languages are interconnected, and how they’ve come together to form what are the present-day Arabic dialects. While beautiful in and of itself, word origins are also practical. They help learners tie words together and place them in social and historical contexts, making language learning easier and more fun.

To prove my point, here are some words that you probably won’t forget after reading about their origins, and you might also learn something about history and Arab cultures in the process.

 

شَرْمُوطة، ج شَرامِيط.

Meaning: Whore

Origin: From the French “charmante,” meaning lovely, charming. French soldiers used the word during the French occupation to refer to escorts and prostitutes, or the lovely women who responded to their needs.

 

فَلافِل

Meaning: Falafel

Origin: Though commonly thought to simply be the plural of the word فِلْفِل, meaning pepper, there is a another camp that claims that it is Coptic in origin. No, this is not just an Egyptian consipiracy to steal Falafel from the Lebanese. The argument is that in Coptic, the three words fa-la-fel mean “of many beans.” Coptic Christians invented Falafel as a substitute for meat during fasts. Whatever the origin, it sure is tasty, especially when obtained from a dirty, greasy دكان — in fact, the dirty the tastier.

 

مْؤَيَّر

Meaning: dick-ish, dick-like

Origin: From the base word أَيْر, which means dick, or as Lisan al-Arab defines it, “one of the crudest words for the penis.” أير actually comes from the Greek “eros,” but here the Levant folk improved on it. مْؤَيَّر commonly means “dickish,” but is probably literally translated as “one turned into a dick.” This is mainly a Levant word, and generally Egyptians won’t know it. I once had to define it for an Egyptian professor, much to her horror, and told her it means لقد جَعَلَ اللهُ منْهُ زُبًّا.

 

بِخّ

Meaning: boo!, and commonly used as peek-a-boo! With kids.

Origin: Coptic. I mainly wanted to include this word to point out that almost every Arab country and often even sub-regions has a different word for peek-a-boo. In Palestine I’ve heard بَقُّوْسِة, and in Lebanon دَقَّانِة. Children’s language, especially rhymes, tends to preserve ancient words.

 

كُشَرِي

Meaning: Kushari, that wonderful Egyptian street food consisting of noodles, rice, beans, lentils, fried onions, and sauce (and sometimes other random things depending on the region).

Origin: It’s actually from Hindi, from the word “kitchiri.” The meal is quite different in India and Pakistan, where it tends to consist of rice cooked in broth with some meat and a شوربة added on top. Kushari probably came to Egypt from India through the British during the 1800s. For the British soldiers, this would have been not only a tasty and cheap food, but also a safe food. The noodles that are added to it in Egypt are probably from an Italian influence.

 

عَرْص

Meaning: Pimp (commonly used as an insult)

Origin: Supposedly this was the name of an official position in the Egyptian Ministry of Interior during the English occupation. At that time, prostitution was legal, and the عَرْص was the police officer who was responsible for conducting patrols and ensuring that prostitutes had their licenses in order. It now is now commonly used as an insult in most Arab countries.

 

تَبْصِيْرَة

Meaning: snack

Origin: 100% Arabic – not all fun words have to come from another language. تَبْصِيرة is from the root صبر, meaning patience, because تصبيرة gives you the patience to wait for the main meal. Although this is entirely proper Arabic in its pronunciation and derivation, it is only used in Egyptian colloquial.

 

سَحْلَب

According to Oxford’s English dictionary, the English word sahlep is of Arabic origin, from خَصْيَتَيْ الثَعْلَب, meaning the fox’s testicles. It was actually the name of the orchid from which sahlep is made. The word ثعلب probably entered into the Levant area and what is now modern Turkey, where many languages don’t have a th sound and transform it into a t or s sound. Then along the way the ع became a ح (since the ح is simply the unvoiced form of the ع). The final “p” in English might be from the Turkish influence, where many voiced consonants, when they are the final letter of a word, become unvoiced. For instance, the word طالِب becomes Talip in Turkish.

 

حَمْرَن / اِسْتَحْمَر

Meaning: to act like a donkey / ass

Origin: 100% Arabic, from the word حمار (donkey). Although completely Arabic, and the derivation rules that they follow are also perfectly good Fusha, these words are only used in colloquials (حمرن being Lebanese, and استحمر being more Egyptian but broadly understood across the Arab countries).

 

مَرَدَ

Meaning: to be rebellious, recalcitrant.

This word, being Fusha, is actually from the shared Semitic root م ر د .The root may be tied to the name Nimrod (نمرود), known in the Bible for disobeying God and being oppressive. In the Levant dialects, the word تْنَمْرَد is used to mean to act like a tyrant (although in Egyptian, according to Badawi and Hinds’ dictionary, it means to make worldly wise).

 

بَنْشَر

Meaning: to puncture

Origin: Probably from the English puncture. In the Levant countries you can go to the بَنْشَرْجِي to get your tires repaired. Here you can see how the Turkish جِي is added to an English word to form a purely Arabic creation.

 

بُوْبْرَيْص

Meaning: common gecko

Origin: the phrase is probably from the folk belief that the gecko causes a skin disease (either vitiligo or leprosy, depending on who you ask). بوبْرَيْص is the Lebanese pronunciation of أبو بَرَص, the father of leprosy.

 

مَصَأري

Meaning: Money

Origin: This is the plural of the word مَصْرِيَّة. Under the Ottoman empire, the Levant area used the currency known as the عُثْمانِي. When the Empire was broken up after World War I, the عُثْمانِي was replaced by the Egyptian Guinea, الجنية المصرية, which was shortened to مصرية. The plural is now commonly used in the Levant countries to mean money, even though the currency is now the لِيْرة. On a few rare occasions one might still hear the singular used, but this is not common.

 

طز

Meaning: to fart

Origin: I don’t know the origin of the word, but the root طز is quite useful for referring to the ass or things that come out of it. طيز means ass (I still remember my wife’s Arabic teacher getting mad at her for using it instead of مؤخرة , which is the more polite word for the rear). طَزطَز means to do many farts. Across the Arab countries one can hear the phrase طُز في, often translated as “to hell with…” The word طَوْبَز, used in Lebanon, is probably also from this root. طوبز means to behind over so the ass is exposed, and can be used to mean to bend over and fart or to bend over and get shafted.

 

As obnoxious as I was with my word choices, I hope you do actually remember these words. Studying word origins shows the richness of the languages and the history that has developed them. Many Levant words are derived from or shared with Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic. Studying word origins also shows the linkages between the Arabic dialects and the strange divergences that occur between them (the brave amongst you can search for the root قلط in the Egyptian and Levantine dictionaries on the Living Arabic Project). Arabic, in its full complexity, is rich and deep, but only by exploring it will you really find it enjoyable.

Continuing in the spirit of Chris’ last post, here is another joke — which is in pretty bad taste, I might add — about engagement/marriage from the Internet. It’s not as full of useful vocabulary as the last one, but it is certainly amusing:

انا جاي اطلب ايد بنتك يا حج
بس يابنى دى لسا بالمدرسة
خلاص اجى بالليل تكون جت

I’ve come to ask for your daughter’s hand, Hagg.
Son, she’s still in school!
Alright, I’ll come back at night when she’s here.

حج – Check here for an explanation of this title.
جاي – Remember our dear friend ism fa3el? This formation more literally means ‘I am a comer’ and is made feminine by adding a ta marbuta (أنا جاية).
دي – In reference to the daughter.
يابني – ya + ibny, but in terms of pronunciation, the phrase usually gets smushed together into something that sounds more like ‘yabny.’
لسا – We covered this useful little word here a while back (scroll about halfway down).
خلاص – Can mean 8,000 different things, ranging from ‘That’s enough!’ to ‘Okay!’ to a very reluctant and angry ‘FINE!’. If you don’t know this word yet, or its accompanying hand motions, you’re doing it wrong.
تكون جت – More precisely she will have come back’ – despite the lack of a ه to indicate the future, given the context of the sentence, this is Egyptian colloquial’s version of the future perfect tense.
~Insert intellectual comment about the phenomenon of child marriage in Egypt here~

In the Levant and probably most of the Arab World, when a man wants to get married to a woman, he goes to see her father and requests her hand in marriage. This interaction is quite awkward, and has spawned a whole genre of jokes. Here is one from the internet:

شب رايح يخطب
مرحبا عمي انا جاية اطلب ايد بنتك
طيب عمي ازا قدرت تاخد الموبايل من ايدا خدا كلا وبلا مهر ازا بدك
shabb raaye7 yikhTob

mar7aba 3ammi ana jaayye eTlob iid bintak
Tayyib 3ammi iza 2der@t taakhod ilmobayl min iida khida killa w bala mah@r iza biddak
A guy goes to get engaged
“Hello, sir, I’ve come to ask for your daughter’s hand.”
“Look, son, if you can get the mobile out of her hand you can have all of her and without paying if you want.”

شب shabb – ‘young man’ – equivalent to MSA شاب. Its plural form is شباب, as in al Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group. Uncomfortably. شب is often used to mean just ‘guy’, with no age really implied (or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking – a Syrian friend of mine once said ‘you know even if a guy dies at the age of 90, we say ‘he went in his prime!’).

خطب khaTab/yikhTob – ‘get engaged [to someone]’. khaTab refers specifically to what a man does when he initiates the engagement. Women انخطب nkhaTab (the passive). Yeah. The verb takes a direct object. Here it has no b- because it is attached to raaye7 in the meaning of ‘to get engaged’

عمي 3ammi – literally ‘paternal uncle’, but in the Levant, 3ammi and 3ammo are used for any man a generation older than you with whom you have a reasonably informal relationship (i.e. not teachers or bosses, probably, but taxi drivers and your parents’ friends, yes). Because kinship terms in the Levant are reversible, 3ammi is also used for anyone to whom you are 3amm, regardless of gender. So in the second line – where I’ve translated it as ‘son’ – he’s really just using the same term of address as the young man is using for him. يا عم is also quite often used as a generic ‘man!’ though not here, I don’t think.

جاية jaayye – the observant among you might have questioned the شب’s use of a feminine participle. In most Levantine dialects, جاية always has a taa marbuuTa. جاية is often used in the sense of ‘I’ve come to’ or ‘I’m here to’, usually with a b-less verb following it. Possibly this is an example of an active participle being used to express a result (having come) instead of a continuous action (coming).

ازا قدرت iza 2der@t – this is either an accidental misspelling or a deliberate phonetic spelling (without knowing the writer we can’t be sure). Syrians in particular, in my experience, are given to very phonetic spellings of 3aammiyye, whereas Palestinians tend to spell colloquial words more similarly to their MSA equivalents. That said, this guy hasn’t spelt قدرت as ئدرت, as he might have done. اذا is not always followed by a past tense in Levantine, and to me the use of the past makes it seem a bit more hypothetical – ‘if you can get the phone out of her hand [but you probably won’t be able to!]’

ايدا, خدا كلا – iid-(h)a, khid-(h)a, kill-(h)a. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how Syrian and Lebanese drop the h, in -ha and -hon a lot of the time, although when I’m transcribing things myself I usually include the h for clarity. In many dialects, akhad ‘take’ has an irregular imperative خود khood which acts like a hollow verb: when a suffix is added (like -ha) the long vowel is shortened to u, which in dialects with the u-i merger then becomes khid. When he says خدا كلا this is a pun based on the idea of asking for someone’s hand (i.e. ‘don’t just take her hand…’).

بلا مهر – a mah@r is the opposite of a dowry – whilst a dowry is paid by the wife’s family to the groom for being kind enough to take her off their hands, a mahr is paid by the groom to the family in exchange for their daughter. Make of that what you will.

Ha ha! Women and their telephones am I right guys!!! Ha ha ha ha!

نمت زي الفسيخة

‘nemt zay el fasee5a’

MMMMM how delicious and appetizing.

MMMMM how delicious and appetizing!!!!

Fasikh is a rotten, pungent fish pickled with salt that many Egyptians eat during the Sham El Nessim holiday to celebrate the beginning of spring. According to Wikipedia, the dish is comprised of “fermented, salted, and dried gray mullet” and the secrets of the fermentation process are often passed down from father to son.

Apparently, when you sleep like this fish, that is a positive thing.

So. There’s that.

يدغدغ

ydaghdagh

As I was discussing Arabic grammar over some Stellas with friends the other day (before you think to yourself ‘wow this girl is a total nerd’: 99% of you have done this before. do not lie.), I said that during my year with CASA I discovered a love for words with 4 letter roots in Arabic, like يهمهم and يوشوش (both onomatopoeias for whispering) as well as يدغدغ (MSA for ‘to tickle.’ not entirely sure how this came up in a graduate level Arabic class, but. you know.). Then my friends informed me that in Egyptian, يدغدغ means ‘to smash’ as in ‘I’m going to smash your head in.’ Probably something you wouldn’t say in an actual fight, but definitely lies within the realm of siblings threatening to beat each other up.

Via arabicproblems.tumblr.com

    Via arabicproblems.tumblr.com

So what is the takeaway here? LEARN. DIALECT. Imagine yourself telling a small child that you’re going to tickle them and watching them burst into tears BECAUSE THEY THINK YOU’RE GOING TO SMASH THEM. Obviously you won’t get it right all the time, and learning a dialect is process, but don’t be the guy that says ‘I’m only interested in learning MSA because I just don’t have the time to learn amiyya.’ Because what you’re really saying is: ‘I can’t be bothered to learn how to interact with actual human beings. I would rather bury my head in books and listen to speeches and watch the news. Oh, and I also suck.’

If you’re interested in learning the basics of any dialect of Arabic, you’d be wise to start here or here.

Guest Post by Christ Hitchcock for #TeamNisreen

This expression – اسم على مُسَمّى – is apparently found everywhere in the Arabic-speaking world and is an excellent go-to compliment – as long as the person you are speaking to has a nice name. It basically means ‘your name describes you exactly’. If you meet someone called نادرة (rare), وسيم (handsome), باسم (smiler) or جميلة (beautiful), this will probably go down pretty well. I wouldn’t suggest citing it in response to a surname like عدوان (aggression), though, or to someone called غيث (light rain). I’m still working on finding out if this proverb was used in the days when people were called things like معاوية (bitch in heat).

Above is a video of the omnipresent Lebanese comedian Adel Karam beginning his talk show Hayda Haki (هيدا حكي) with a skit based on this saying. He introduces the section, as is usual for him, with a brief conversation with the frontman of his house band, Chady Nashef (a famous guitarist in his own right):

شو عدولة؟
Shu 3adduule?
What is it, Adel?

3adduule (also 3adduul, 3addaal, etc) is an affectionate nickname for someone called 3aadil – this pattern is used with lots of names (7ammuude, 7ammaad, 7ammuud).

سارد عليك هيك عم اطلع فيك
saarid 3aleek heek 3am iTTali3 fiik
I’m just lost [listening to your music], you know, looking at you

سارد means ‘lost in thought’, or ‘away with the fairies’.

اطّلع بـ means ‘look at’, and is the normal expression in Levantine. Bi- almost never appears with pronoun suffixes, being replaced with fii (as above) in most Levantine dialects.

خير؟
kheer?
What’s up?

This question is a useful one used when somebody looks ill or upset – it means something like ‘I hope everything’s all right?’ or just ‘what’s up?’

حبينا نسألك شغلة
7abbeena nis2alak sheghle
We want[ed] to ask you something.

7abb can be used in past and present in basically the same meaning: حبيته ‘I love him’. The first person plural is often used when a speaker is really only referring to themselves: ما تواخذنا maa twaakhiz-na ‘please excuse me’.

شغلة sheghle – thingy, thing

قول
2uul
Ask away!

هلأ كل بيت الناشف متلك هيك وجههن بشوش ومهضومين؟
halla2 kill beet innaashif mitlak heek wijjon bashuush w mahDuumiin?
Are all the Nashifs [his surname] like you, with smiley faces and friendly?

بيت beet plus a surname, or in some places in the Levant دار + surname, refers to the extended family of that surname. I guess in a Game-of-Thronesy context, ‘house of X’ can be used the same way in English. بيت مين؟ or من بيت مين؟ are very common ways of asking ‘what’s your surname?’

وجه wijj or wishh is almost never, if ever, pronounced as wajh in the Levant; it’s either pronounced with a double j or a double sh. It’s singular here, and has a singular adjective, بشوش, agreeing with it, even though in English we say ‘their faces’, not ‘their face’. These sorts of constructions, where there are multiple people who each possess one of one thing, are generally singular in colloquial Arabic (like French): قلبكن, حياتكن… When you want every person to only raise one hand, you can say رفعو ايدكن! rfaa3u iidkon! ‘raise your hand(s)!’

كلهن مهضومين بس أنا اهضم واحد
killon mahDuumiin bass ana ahDam waa7id
They’re all friendly, but I’m the friendliest.

It’s often claimed by Arabic teachers that af3als can’t be formed from non-simple adjectives. This isn’t true in MSA and it’s not true in colloquial either!

عن جد؟ اي بس إنه… ما في واحد وجهه ناشف؟ منين اجت؟ يعني بيت الناشف…
3an jadd? Ee bass inno… maa fii 7ada wissho naashif? Mneen ijit? Ya3ni beet innaashif…
Seriously? Yeah, but I mean… isn’t there anyone whose face is grumpy? Where did it come from? I mean the name Nashif.

ناشف naashif – the first pun of a long, long string of bad puns. ناشف means ‘dry’, but it also means, of a person, ‘cold’, in the sense of keeping people at a distance. Somebody whose face is ناشف is someone who is unfriendly or austere.

هاي ما بعرف… جد جدي يمكن… بس لأ كلهن بشوشين
haay maa ba3rif… jidd jiddi yimkin… bass la2 killon bashuushiin
That I don’t know… maybe my great great grandfather. But no, all of them are smiley.

A lot of the puns are not really that funny and largely target Lebanese politicians and singers (it’s always possible that if I knew more about the careers of these individuals I’d find them funnier) but some highlights include:

1:00: أو مثلا… سعد حريري مية بالمية لا بوليستر لا خيطان نايلون
Aw masalan… Sa’d 7ariri miyye bilmiyye laa bulyester la khee6aan naayloon
Or for example… Saad Hariri is one hundred per cent neither polyester or nylon thread

حرير is silk. حريري means ‘made from silk’.

1.03: عندك تمام سلام عليكم بلا زغرة آدمي وتمام
3indak Tammaam Salaam 3aleekum bala zeghra aadami w tamaam
There’s Tamam Salaam Aleikum, without any disrespect, friendly and good

Tammaam and tamaam are of course nearly homophones; the rest of the joke is predicated on turning his surname, salaam, into a greeting (salaam 3aleekum).

آدمي (pronounced in Lebanese like eedami) is obviously from آدم and means ‘friendly, polite’. Its plural is أوادم awaadim. 

بلا زغرة is ‘without disrespect’ – زغرة is from صغير (you may have noticed that it is pronounced zghiir in colloquial; I guess before the advent of mass literacy this left its root open to being reinterpreted as z-gh-r). بلى زغرة, depending on who you ask, is either outdated and only used as a joke or very common. To me it’s associated with quite a conservative style of politeness. You can ask, for example, مين انت بلا زغرة؟ if you want to remove some of the directness of the question.

ليش عند مثلا جورج عدوان تموز
leesh… 3indak masalan juurj 3adwaan tammuuz
For example, you’ve got Georges Adwan Tammuuz.

عدوان تموز – the ‘July aggression’ (I’m not sure this is the typical English translation), a term for the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

1.13 أو زميله مثلا بطرس حرب الإلغا
aw zamiilo masalan BuTros 7arb il-ilgha
Or his colleague, for example, Boutros [Harb] Dissolution War.

I don’t think حرب الإلغاء actually has a Wikipedia article in English, but there’s a short explanation in Arabic here. The joke is extended by the similarity or closeness implies by ‘his colleague’ and the closeness of the two concepts.

عندك علاء حكيم وفهيم ومش لئيم
3indak 3ala 7akiim w fahhiim w mish la2iim

عندك حكمت ديب ولا عفنا الغنم

1:31: أحمد فتفت الجفصين
A7mad fatfat ijjafSiin!
Ahmad [Fatfat] took off the plaster [cast]!

This pun is probably based on Ahmad Fatfat’s previous career as a doctor.

فتفت fatfat is derived from فتّ ‘crumble’ on the pattern fa3fa3, which normally – along with a number of other patterns that are used to produce new verbs, like fa3wal, foo3al etc – either produces a meaning of ‘doing X again and again’, or lessens the impact of the verb.

جفصين jafSiin is the Lebanese word for ‘plaster’ (the stuff you put on a broken arm – in Fusha جِصّ and in Syrian جبصين jabSiin).

خالد ظاهر من الكتلة
khaalid Daahir min ilkitle

غازي زعيتر وزيت مع بصلة هيك وورق نعناع
ghaazi z3ayter w zeet ma3 baSle heek w wara2 na3naa3

أميد رحمة من السماء
amiin ra7me mn issama

وأمين جمايل وغزايل وجبايل بيي
w amiin @jmaayel w @ghzaayel w@jbaayil bayyi

2:00: ميشيل فرعون الأشرفية مش الجيزا
Misheel Far3uun ilashrafiyye mish ilgiiza
Michel [Pharaon] is Pharaoh of Achrafieh not of Giza

One for the Egyptians. Achrafieh is a famous area of Beirut. Pharaon’s family are very rich Christians; Achrafieh is, I think, a predominantly Christian area.

علي عمار الحوري هينين ككوبل
3ali 3ammaar il7oori hayyiniin ka kuupl

 

2:12: عندك… الياس بو صعب هين؟
3indak… Ilyaas bu Sa3b hayyin?
There’s… is Elias Bou Saab easily overcome?

هين is ‘easy’ (not promiscuous but easy to deal with or ignore – don’t misunderstand if someone describes someone else as سهل, either).

عندك خالد حدادة وبويا  وش بوليش
3indak khaalid @7daade w buuya wijj poolish

2:22: سليمان فرنجية بيلعب محبوسة
Sleemaan Franjiyye byil3ab ma7buuse
Suleiman Frangieh plays mahbuseh…


Ma7buuse and franjiyye are different kinds of backgammon.

2:25: أو علي بزي… طبيعي مش سيليكون!
aw 3ali bazzi… Tabii3i mish silikoon
Or Ali Bazzi… natural, not silicon!

بزي evokes بزة bazze ‘breast’, and for some Lebanese people they’re homophones. As one of the world’s biggest centres of cosmetic surgery, Lebanon really has the market cornered on breast implant humour (no, really).

هلأ هي القصة مش بقى وفقت بس ع السياسيين يعني… في الفنانين
halla2 hiyye il2iSSa mish ba2a wef2et bass 3a ssiyaasiyyiin ya3ni… fii lfannaaniin

الفنانين كمان نفس الجو… لبستهن اساميهن لبس
ilfannaaniin kamaan nafs ijjoww… libsiton asaamiyyon lib@s

2.43: قليلة كاظم الساهر ليلية؟  بيبجبجو عيونو يا شيخ
2aliile kaaZim issaahir leeliyye? Bibajbju 3ayuuno yaa sheekh
Doesn’t Kadhim al-Sahir stay up late? His eyes are swelling up, man

قليلة aliile is literally ‘a small amount’ or ‘not worth considering’. It’s used a lot in contexts like 2aliile yitzawwaj 3aleyyi? ‘[are you saying it’s a] small thing that he should marry [a second wife, having married] me?’ – it is used, generally, in questions, with a rhetorical ‘it certainly isn’t a small thing!’ kind of meaning. Here it’s being used with the following pun kaaZim issaahir leeliyye to mean ‘isn’t this name very accurate’/’isn’t this pun very appropriate’?

سهر sahar (yishar) is ‘to stay up late’; ساهر is its active participle, so Kadhim al-Sahir literally means ‘Kadhim who stays up late’, which is the basis of the joke.

ليلية leeliyye is a Lebanese expression meaning ‘every night’. This completes the name – kaaZim issaahir leeliyye ‘Kaazim who stays up every night’.

بجبج bajbaj is ‘to become puffy’, of eyes, either from sleepiness or crying too much. It’s plural here agreeing with ‘eye’. It took me ages to work out what he was saying because bibajbiju is contracted to bibajbju and then has a vowel reinserted to become bibajibju, with the stress staying in the same place, which messes with your perception of word boundaries.

2.52 هيفا وهبة أعضاءها بعد عمر طويل
heefa wehbe a3Daa2a ba3d 3omr Tawiil
Hayfa [Wehbe] has donated her organs after a long life.

The pun here is based on وهبة, which is related to the word وهب ‘to donate’. The normal term for ‘organ donation’ is وهب أعضاء wehbe sounds like the active participle waahbe ‘has donated’.

3.16 راغب علامة عالية… عجب كبير
Raaghib 3allaame 3aalye – 3ajab kbiir


Ragheb Alama – described by Wikipedia as a Lebanese ‘singer, dancer, lover, fighter, composer, television personality and philanthropist’. Raaghib is ‘desiring, wanting’, and 3allaame is a mark – as in a mark in a test.

Incidentally, Nisreen نسرين is a kind of beautiful flower, and Maha مها means ‘wild cows’. Yeah, that’s right. Just mull that over.

 

 

 

ابو شنب

abu shanab

This literally means ‘father of moustache’ but in reality is just a convenient way to point out an unknown man with enviable facial hair, aka ‘that guy with the moustache’ in English. If you’re referring to a guy walking down the street wearing a red shirt, for example, he may similarly become “abu a7mar,” and sometimes the phrase has a comical, “I’m kind of making fun of this person but not really,” type of feeling.

One of Egypt's more notorious moustaches, owned by Judge Nagy Shehata.

One of Egypt’s more notorious moustaches, which happens to be owned by Judge Nagy Shehata.

 

For demonstrative purposes, let’s assume that one particular father of moustache is being a douche and blocking the street or something. You could say ابو شنب دا وقف الدنيا كلها which literally means “this father of moustache stopped the whole world!!!” –this is obviously a little dramatic and could be translated more accurately as “moustache guy is blocking everything.” Definitely know that this phrase doesn’t come up all that often, but I found it amusing, and it also provided a convenient excuse to post pictures of Nagy Shehata’s stash on the Internet.

Hey don't have any nightmares llater or anything.

Hey don’t have any nightmares later or anything.