Jordanian Dialect Lesson

I mentioned the You Tube comedy channel بث بياخة (bathbayakha) a while back and in this lesson we'll be disecting one of their songs. It's in Jordanian dialect, but this dialect is very similar to the other Levantine dialects (Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian) so if you're learning one of those, then this lesson will help you. One simple way to distinguish Jordanian dialect from the other dialects in the Levantine family is from the way they pronounce the letter qaf ق . They pronounce it as "g" as in "goal" just like the Gulf and Iraqi dialects. You'll notice that a lot in this song. I wrote the translated lyrics in blue so you can pick them out more easily from among the explanations.

  • اسمعيني - Listen to me
  • فتحي دينيكي- Open your ears
He says اسمعيني because he is talking to a girl. He would say اسمعني if he were addressing a guy. And دينيكي is literally "your two ears". They don't use the plural of ears when referring to a person's ears. They use the dual. In MSA "your (2) ears" is أُذُنَيكِ. In many dialects they change ذ to د or ز. You can see that they changed the ذ to a د in this case.

  • انا و انتي صارلنا سنين متجوزين و بنينا عيلة من يوم عرسي و انا متاكد ان حياتنا شنق ليلة - You and I have been married for years and we've built a family. From my wedding day I was sure that our life would be great.
صار means here "it has been". Another example would be قديش صارلك بلبنان -"how long has it been for you in Lebanon". صارلنا is literally صار لنا -"it has been for us". It isn't all one word, but most of the time it is typed that way. I know I used to get very confused by stuff like that, thinking that the little add-ons were part of the root of the word. "I can't find the 4 letter root صرلن anywhere!!!"

عيلة is عائلة which means family in MSA.

شنق ليلة is a phrase I had to ask about. It's specifically Jordanian. It literally means "choking the night", but figuratively it means "awesome" or "really great".

  • كل شي كان عسل حتى لو انك ماكلي بصل - Everything was honey even if you ate onion.
This is a figurative phrase. Not literal, obviously. It's just a way to say how nice his life was. That is... before... she did something terrible!

  • بدي منك تسمعيني اكمل كلمة ككلمة - I want you to listen to me say what I have to say.
Literally اكمل كلمة is literally "complete a word" but "let me say what I have to say" gets the idea across better.

  • بتذكر بعد العرس لما رن جرس البيت فتحتي الباب حكيتي كلمة لواحد ازعر قد الحيط - I remember after the wedding when the doorbell rang and you opened the door and spoke to some lowlife.
The word is تذكر. So, I remember would be بتذكر and you remember would be بتتذكر. Don't think that the ت in the word in the sentence indicates "you". It's just part of the word. The word رن is just like our word "ring". It's an onomatopoeia which is when a word sounds like its meaning.

ازعر is a negative word to refer to a guy. I chose to go with "lowlife". قد الحيط is something that confused me and I asked several places about it. Everyone told me that it means someone who is really big which is what you would get when you thought about the definition. It literally means "as big as the wall". However, that doesn't make sense here as the guy she sees at the door isn't huge. Maybe he's just exaggerating like in the rest of the song. But I have it from many sources that قد الحيط refers to someone who is very large.

  • عامل حالي مش عارف بس انا فاهم كل الطبخه - I pretended like I didn't know, but I understand everything that's happening.
عامل حالي is how you say "I pretended to be". I pretended not to see would be عامل حالي مش شايف . "I make my condition not the seer."

انا فاهم كل الطبخة - I understand everything that's going on. "She's cooking something up." الطبخة is used in kind of the same way we'd use it in English. طبخة is literally a plate of food or something being cooked.

  • صاير وضعك مش طبيعي شو؟ شايفتيني لطخة؟ - You've changed. What? Do you think I'm stupid?
صاير وضعك مش طبيعي - "Your condition has become unnatural" is a literal translation, but "you've changed" sounds better.

شايفتيني - You see me

لطخة - stupid

بتخونيني - You betray me.

Also could be translated as "you cheat on me".

  • كومستير - I found you out.
I had to ask about this one too. This is a word that is shouted in Arabic hide and seek, which is called غُمَيضة, when you find someone. It makes sense to call the game that because the root غمض means "to close your eyes". كومستير is not an Arabic word and it must have been taken from somewhere else. We don't yell that in the US when playing hide and seek as far as I know. The word sounds Italian to me. Anyone know?

  • شفتك لما دخلتي عند ابو سامح تبع الخضرا - I saw you when you went into Abu Samih's vegetable shop
ابو سامح تبع الخضرا - Literally, this is "Abu Samih of the vegtables" تبع is a strange word. My book - الكتاب تبعي

  • وزنلك كيلو بطاطا و انا عارف كان نفسك خضرا - He weighed a kilo of potatoes for you and I knew you wanted vegetables.
نفسك means "you want". This is used a lot in Egyptian, but I haven't heard it in other Levantine dialects. I was surprised to hear it in Jordanian.

  • و مرة عالاشارة لما اجاكي ذاك الشب بده يبيعك حبة علكة تعطر تمك تروي القلب - And one time at the stop light when that guy came up to you. He wanted to sell you a piece of gum to freshen your breath and quench your thirst.
تعطر تمك - means literally "to give your mouth a good smell". The noun عطر means "perfume" and it's believe that's where we got the word "odor" which has come to mean "a bad smell" even though in Arabic it means a good one. If you didn't know that عطر meant "perfume" you could have just typed it into Google and looked at the images.

The root روى is MSA and means "to quench thirst". I don't think I've ever heard that gum "quenches thirst" in English, but you get the idea. "To satisfy you" might be better.

الاشارة - stoplight

ذاك الشب - that guy

  • قلتيله شكراً حبيبي. حبيبي؟؟؟ - You said to him "Thank you, habibi." Habibi???
Habibi literally means "my love", but it can be used in a very platonic way which is how the girl was using it. Something similar in English would be "thanks, hunny". It can be meant for your boyfriend or anyone at all. The singer of the song just gets jealous very easily :).

  • مالك؟ مش عارف. بظن في اشي محلق بزوري - What's wrong with you? I don't know. I think there's something stuck in my throat.
You'll notice that he says إشي instead of شي . You can distinguish that someone is Palestinian or Jordanian if they use إشي . I was standing in line at the airport and heard a girl taking on her phone in Arabic and she used this word. I asked her, انت فلسطينية مو هيك؟ (you're Palestinian, right?) and she was so surprised that I knew that :P.

محلّق بزوري - stuck in my throat

  • جاجة ورا ثلاجة و جاجة راكبة دراجة و جاجة ورا جاجة وين؟ فوق الثلاجة و جاجة - A chicken behind the fridge and a chicken riding a bike and a chicken behind a chicken. Where? On top of the fridge. And a chicken.
There is no deeper meaning to that chicken stuff. :) The guy singing is just supposed to be random and funny. I thought it meant something or was a joke only Jordanians would understand but after asking around, nope.

  • و انت كمان يا صاحبي واقف معي شو ما يصير بتخاف علي اكيد و ع مرتي اكتر بكتير. اكيد! - And you, my friend always stand with me no matter what happens. You worry about me, for sure, and about my wife so much more. For sure!
بتخاف علي - means more like "you look out for me"

  • كان لازم و انا مسافر و انا بعيد قلبي اتطمن من بعد العيشة معك بكون حمار لو ما بتعلم - I had to make sure when I'm traveling and far away that my heart is at ease. After living with you I'd be a donkey if I didn't learn.
The و here doesn't mean "and". It means "when". You'll hear people say انا و صيغر . It doesn't me "me and little". It means "when I was little".

There's a saying that says التكرار يعلّم الحمار (repetition teaches the donkey). So if he didn't learn from all the times she's "cheated" on him, he'd be a donkey.

إتطمن means "at ease". Often someone will say طمّني عليك. It means, let me know how it's going. Literally "put me at ease about you". In MSA الإطمئنان is tranquility, peace of mind, calmness.

  • اضطريت اوصي صاحبي بغيابي يضل معكي و بالليل جنبيكي نام يحط ايده حواليكي - I'm forced to instruct my friend in my absence to stay with you and at night to sleep next to you and put his arm around you.
اوصي means to entrust, charge with, etc.

ضل or in MSA ظل means "to stay".

ولو - Naturally!

ولو can be translated different ways. Here, "naturally" is a good translation. You might also put "of course". It's often used in the following situation. If you ask someone for help (some money or something) and they feel offended that you thought they might not help you they could say طبعاً بساعدك ولو "of course I'll help you". I've heard this word used many many times and still have trouble pinning down a good definition and exactly where to use it. There really isn't a perfect equivalent in English.

  • حواليكي؟ حواليها؟ - Around you? Around her?
  • بتخونيني - You betray me.
  • فيثاغورس - Pythagoras
Because it's a love triangle and Pythagoras is the triangle guy in math.


Anonymous said...

Walaw ولو can mean like sure or no problem, etc. Very informative blog keep it up!

chris said...

awesome, thank you.

Anonymous said...

A huge post! Thank you, Andrew!


destination:known said...

Seriously Andrew, I'm listening to your Levantine Arabic phrases in the background on Youtube, and you have a better dialect than some arabs I know! Myself included (I'm half Lebanese)
From all the dialects you've learnt, which one was the easiest to pick up?

Kudos to you!

All the best!

The Arabic Student said...

Thanks. For me it was Syrian and Lebanese were easy for me because that's what I watched on TV the most. Sometimes when they use French in Lebanese I get lost though.

Brad Fallon said...

Shukran Sadiq!! A very informative post, the language is as ancient as the moon but it is as mighty as the dinosaur..

Nadia K. said...

ُThanks so much for your blog, there aren't many resources out there to help with learning Levantine dialects (esp. Jordanian, which is what I'm working on), and this is really helpful to me. Keep up the good work, your Arabic knowledge is impressive:)

Jay said...

Hey, Love the blog. I think the Jordanian dialect is among the most neglected in terms of resources. A lot of people just throw it in with levantine when it's not the same thing. (especially the fala7i varients which is very common in irbid and zarqa)

Anyway I was wondering if you could tell me the point of "fee" in the sentence

بظن "في" اشي محلق بزوري

I can't figure that out. I hope you do more grammatical posts regarding jordanian arabic soon.

Anonymous said...

I like your work, and visit every once and a while. I might have a little difference of opinion about Hebibi. I think it may just be a little bit stronger than you say. i think it's used for "lover" (darling, love) but also any family member can use it for a male family member. For a female, or a female family member they say, hebipti.Also guys use it for close male friends, and girls use the female for close female friends, but I don't think, generally speaking, husbands like their wife to use it with some other man. At least in Jordan. :D
Keep up the excellent work though

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this precious lesson, ya Mudarris..!! ;-)

caitlyn said...

Hey there, I know you said it sounded strange that "nafsak" appeared in a song in Jordanian but perhaps it actually forms part of the idiom "nifsahu khadra" which refers to a person that is still interested in other men/women depending on the gender though they are old/married/whatever. I learned the phrase from al-kitaab part 1. Thoughts?

Shiri said...

Regarding كومستير, my Arabic knowledge is pretty basic, but I would bet it does have an Arabic origin. Don't you think it's from the root س.ت.ر, which relates to hiding and covering (like ستار = curtain)? This root also means "to hide" in Hebrew, and I think they're related. I'm not sure about the كو in the beginning, but it might be two words merged together, that together mean to discover the thing that is hidden.

Sa'r said...

كومستير = Come, stare! ?

ojn said...

great post... with me being jordanian i love to see posts have something to do with jordan, about (كومستير) i don't think you should bother to look for where it came from, i don't think anyone knows, and i don't think anyone will know for sure!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think Caitlin has it on the nose with nafsak - there's wordplay going on there with her buying veggies by having an-nafs alkhadra (I'd translate it awkwardly as 'healthy libido"). I'm not sure whether it'd be a true pun here - I knew you wanted veggies/were randy as it would be in Egyptian, maybe just a play on the meanings and rhyme of khadra.

Anonymous said...

Haha that was so funny I liked it. I have an anatomy exam tomorrow and I don't know how I came here !
I'm Jordanian and I understand most of the other Arabic dialects very well.
Let me tell you something you may already know. Arabic language in general is like an ocean. So many words so many meanings, and you may find several words in Arabic that have only one meaning in English or other languages, but these several words actually have some differences in their meaning that is very hard to translate it to another language. Arabic language as you know is so ancient as well as so rich.

قد الحيط it is not a nice/polite way of telling that someone is not a child anymore. Maybe it was used here to say: the one who was on the door is a big "adult" man not a little boy, so don't be so sweet with him.

Literally، لطخة means a smear. Lol. I don't know how to explain the relationship between smear and stupid, but this may help: smear has no brain haha! It is just there doing nothing, just being in its place not moving not understanding what is happening.

Usually as you can see, we use other words with other meanings to express a certain thing. Usually there is similarities some how.

- it is معلق بزوري not محلق بزوري
-محلق is from تحليق which means flying.
But معلق means stuck.

Anonymous said...

Hi all

I am trying to learn Jordanian Arabic.

I stay in South Africa - I cnat find anyone who can teach Jordanian Arabic.

Websites teach quaranic Arabic and Egyptian Arabic.

Does anyone have links / sites that I can use to learn Jordanian Arabic


Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous

Currently wits university has an Arabic course that teaches Syrian and egyptian dialect. I think phone the language school their if your interested and live near the Johannesburg area.
Hope this helps!