Nine Words…and Six More

A couple of months ago, Cracked magazine ran a piece lamenting the “grievous holes” in the English language and suggesting nine foreign words that might go some way to fill in the gaps.

What an appealing selection, even if the list fails to include any Arabic. I’ve taken the liberty of choosing a few of those words that hold new worlds for the non-native speaker.

Here are six Arabic one-word expressions that just might tickle your tongue:

6. M3alish/ma’alish (????) – a catch-all expression roughly translated as “no big deal, don’t worry about it” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it,” depending on whether you’re the afflicted or the afflicter. The number 3 represents the Arabic letter ?, unpronounceable in English, so just double the “a” sound to approximate it.

5. Khalas (???) – literally, “it’s finished” or “enough,” expressing a refusal to take anymore and a determination to move on. Barring extremes in tone of voice, its usage has more range than the more aggressive “Enough!” in English.

4. Sa7tayn/sah-tayne (?????) – the Arabic equivalent of bon appetit, meaning “two healths” or “double the health.” The number 7 represents a breathy ‘h’ hinted at in English by an old school aristocrat’s exaggerated pronunciation of “(h)what” and “(h)when.” Now, really, would you rather have a ‘good appetite’ or ‘double the health’?

3. Inshallah (?? ??? ????) – God willing, expressing more uncertainty as to how future events will play out and less religious piety per se. As in: ‘Will you be on time tomorrow?’ ‘Inshallah.’ It’s a great way to say ‘maybe’ with gravity.

2. 7abibi (?????) – my darling, used for men and women, also the “hey dude” of the Arab world. Dude has become sweeter with time, but 7abibi was sweet from the beginning.

1. Yallah (!????) – translates as “come on,” “hurry up” or “let’s go!” and it sounds like what it means with a strong stress on the first syllable and the second syllable on its heels. It also has a natural musicality that makes it addictive. In the linked song, Fairuz sings “Yallah, go to sleep Rima…”


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