A transcription of the short Egyptian film el Qonbela, with bombs, street theatre and pickles.
Tag: literal translation
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):
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
We took a bit of a break for travel and are back with arguably the most important post you have ever encountered & maybe WILL ever encounter on this blog: proper use of popular Egyptian swear فشخ (fashkh).
I’ve heard rumors that the original meaning of this word refers to the exact moment where a woman opens her legs, which, honestly, sounds about right. There are a multiplicity of forms of and uses for this word, with the basics explained below. As always with curse words, use with caution.
فشخ – Ex: الجو حار فشخ = ‘It’s really fucking hot.’ Here, فشخ works as an adverb, describing an adjective (har/hot). It’s basically a way to both swear and say the word ‘very’ at the same time. If you want to really emphasize the misery of how fucking hot it is, draw out the خ a little longer, like so: الجو حار فشخخخخخخخخخخخخخ
مفشوخ – fucked, as in: انا مفشوخ بجد – ‘I’m seriously fucked.’ Al-Kitaab friends–this is ism maf3ol! Think about it: the ism fa3el would be whatever is doing the fucking (the fucker, if you will–this can be school, work, the guy who gave you a parking ticket, etc.), while you–“the fucked”–are the object of the fucking.
فَشَخ (verb) – To fuck over or up, as in: الشغل فشخني = ‘Work fucked me over.’ هافشخك – ‘I will fuck you up.’
اتفشخ – To become fucked: اتفشخت من الضحك – literally ‘I became fucked from laughing’ or more accurately ‘I laughed soooooo fucking hard.’ Shout out to the awzan: Form five, reflexive.
فشيخ – This means ‘really fucking awesome.’ Like, الالبوم دا فشيخ = ‘This album is so fucking awesome.’
فشاخة – This is the noun form of faskh. Thus: ايه الفشاخة دي – ‘What is this awesomeness?’
تفشيخ – Example: الشغل اليومين دول تفشيخ – ‘Work these days is a piece of cake.’ تفشيخ here means that something is easy and not tiring. (Looking at you, Form II.) Not super commonly used, but goes with the theme of this post.
افشخ – Superlative form of fashkh, aka, more fashkh that something else. مبارح كان افشخ من النهارده – ‘Yesterday was more fucked than today.’
And my personal favorite: فشخومية – A fake number expressing a fucking LOT of things. Ex: عندي فشخومية كتاب في اوضتي = ‘I have a shit ton of books in my room.’ I still don’t actually believe that this is a real thing that people say, but I encourage you all to casually drop it in conversation and report back on what happens.
And I think it’d be appropriate to add a note to the authors of Al-Kitaab here before we wrap it up: Mr. Batal et al., I am realizing right now that you had the chance of a lifetime to leave behind the legacy of legacies and use فشخ as an example to demonstrate the ten forms and all other grammar concepts throughout al-Kitaab, thereby revolutionizing how students retain qawa3ed. But you passed this opportunity up, and now, we’re forced just to remember you for Maha. Sad days.
I’m absolutely certain that you, dear non-native Arabic speaker currently located in Cairo, want no part in anything that could jeopardize the delicate, spotless reputation that foreigners living in Egypt have worked so hard to maintain over the years. In the spirit of this sentiment, TeamMaha has compiled the following brief guide to commonly used titles in Egypt to help smooth out your day-to-day interactions with the population of om al-dunya.
Note that this list is by no means exhaustive; feel free to leave additions or suggestions in the comments section and I’ll adjust the post accordingly.
باشا basha – Originally a Turkish term used in reference to high-ranking political officials under the Ottoman empire, the word is now usually used by people working in the service industry and/or serving you in some way as a means to address you respectfully. This is most often used when speaking with men, but I’ve been called basha once or twice, and each time it was fantastic.
بي bey (bae?) – Similar to basha, above. Not much of a difference in usage as far as I can tell, although this was distinct from a basha back in the Ottoman days.
فندم fendem – This one usually appears when you’re speaking to someone and didn’t hear something they said, but want to appear respectful: يا فندم؟ means something like ‘Sorry, come again?’ Also–you guessed it!–Turkish.
باشامهندس bashamohandes A term of respect for engineers, which is a highly regarded career path in Egypt. Combination of basha + the word for ‘engineer’–a two-for-one title, if you will.
اوسطى osta – This is usually used when speaking to taxi/bus drivers, but an amiya teacher once told me its for anyone who works with their hands. When you want to get out of a taxi, you can say على جمب يا اوسطى (ala gemb yaosta – note that the ‘ya’ and ‘osta’ tend to kind of meld together).
برنس brins – aka, ‘prince’ in a super Egyptian accent. Usually comes out when someone has done something of note and the speaker wants to express his approval, or when greeting a good friend.
حاج\حاجة hag\haga – Title of respect used for the elderly, associated with the expectation that a Muslim who has gotten on in their years will have made the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once. Use copiously and #respectyourelders.
أستاذ ustaz – Literally means ‘teacher’ and is similar to basha, but can be used as a title before someone’s name; for example, if I’m ordering food on the phone and the company has my name recorded in their database, they may ask if ‘ustaza Caitlyn’ is calling, to be polite. This is also used more often for women in place of basha.
آنسة anisa – Used for young women, and implies that they’re unmarried, if I’m not mistaken. The shami equivalent is صبايا.
حضرتك hadrtak/hadrtek – Not as much a title, but if you speak Spanish, it operates a bit like ‘Usted’–its a polite form of ‘you.’ So if you’re talking to your friend’s mom or a teacher, for example, you might say ازاي حضرتك instead of the more informal ازايك. When addressing a police officer–most often a situation in which you most likely want to be the politest of polite–you can call him/her حضرت الضابط.
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.
Please note that TeamMaha is committed to bringing you insults on the regular because they never teach you how to say something or someone is absolute shit in school, DO THEY?
Anyways: this phrase has nothing to do with speech, and everything to do with quality. For example: شغل اي كلام (sho3’l ay kalam) means ‘a crappy job’ (as in someone did a crappy job of something), بيقول اي كلام means something to the effect of ‘he’s just saying whatever’ and رحلة اي كلام means ‘a lousy/low-quality trip’ (literally ‘an any speech trip’ which just makes no goddamn sense at all).
The opposite of اي كلام is often نظيف (ndeef) which literally means ‘clean’ and implies that something is done well–hence: انا مش عايزة رحلة اي كلام يعني, عايزة رحلة نظيفة= “I don’t want just any trip, I want a good one.”
Other colloquial uses of كلام that come to mind right now:
الكلام دا = ‘that sort of thing’ (ماليش في المذاكرة والكلام دا = I’m not one to really study and that sort of thing)
هو بتاع كلام = ‘He makes shit up all the time.’ Another related word: بيحوّر, a verb meaning basically the exact same thing. I could actually give you like five more synonyms for this right off the top of my head (why are there so many different ways to say ‘he’s a bullshitter?’ in Egyptian) but these will hopefully suffice you for now.
The other day I stumbled upon a commercial so masterfully stuffed with euphemisms that I had to write about it on the internet. It’s about a guy named بدري (“Early”) who has an issue that affects both him and his ladyfriend. I’ve written out a transcription & translation of the commercial and discussed a few useful words in Egyptian Arabic at the end of the post so you all can have a productive laugh. Also, anyone with insight as to why a man appears on the back of the motorcycle in a fuzzy animal costume around 0:15 gets five gold stars.
Transcription & Translation:
بصي يا فتحية انا لمعتلك المكنة, ومليت التنك, وهنتفسح النهارده طول اليوم
Look Fatheya, I polished the machine for you and filled the tank, so we’re going to go out and have fun all day!
!يااااا دا انا من زمان نفسي اتفسح
Wow, I’ve wanted to go out and have fun for a long time!
وأنا كمان. يلا اركبي يلا يلا
Me too! Come on, get on, come on come on!
انت على طول كدا مستعجل…يا بدري هو انا لحقت اركب؟؟
You’re always in such a hurry…Badry, did I even get on?!
ولا يهمك, الحل في الهرم
It’s alright! The solution is Haram.
مع الهرم, بدري بطل يجي بدري
With Haram, Badry stopped coming early. (Literally. This is literally what the video says.)
استشر طبيب أو صيدلي على الدواء المخصص لعلاج سرعة القذف
Consult a doctor or pharmacist on medicine specialized for treating early ejaculation.
لمّع – The word يلمع, without the shadda, means ‘to shine.’ So the causative form II used in the video means ‘to make shine’ or polish. Hence لمعتلك المكنة = I made the machine shine for you.
يتفسح – This word is often used to talk about travelling and generally being out and about and having fun. Someone out there might have a better English translation for this word than the one I used, but I don’t think it really has a one word equivalent in English.
ياااا — An extended يااااااااا is often used to express surprise in Egyptian. Alternatively: يووووووووووو, always said with the same down-up-down intonation.
نفسي –This is a stronger way to say ‘I want’ than عايز, usually meaning something closer to ‘I desire’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to…’
لحق –This is a verb used most often in the context of ‘making’ a train or bus, for example. So هتعرف تلحق would mean, ‘Will you be able to make it?’ Here Fatheya is saying she didn’t get the chance to get on…if you know what I mean (insert winky face here).
يركب — Literally means ‘to ride’ and used to describe getting in a car, the metro, or a bus: ركبنا المترو مش تكس = We rode the metro, not a taxi.
ولا يهمك is what you usually say when someone accidentally bumps into you and apologizes.
A few more dubious subtitling choices that were recently brought to my attention:
Alternative translation for “girlfriend” = صديقة حميمة (‘Intimate friend’)
“Stripper” = راقصة (‘dancer’ with no further elaboration)
“Hey, motherfucker” = يا سافل (‘Varmint’ or ‘ratfish’ according to the omnipotent Google)
“Fuck no!” = كلا يا سيدي (No, sir!)
All this aside, I will say that I once heard the English word (just the word!) ‘kiss’ censored out of some Bruno Mars song playing at City Mall in Jordan, so it could be much worse. Five gold stars for effort, subtitlers, wherever you may be.