Arabic Phrase: What can I tell you to tell you?

Today's post is all about a phrase that's used a lot in Levantine Arabic (Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Jordanian). The phrase is شو بدي أحكيلك لأحكيلك (shoo beddi aHkeelak la aHkeelak) and sometimes شو بدي أحليلك تأحكيلك (shoo beddi aHkeelak ta aHkeelak).

They both mean the same thing and are used before you're about to explain something or don't really know what to say. The phrase means, "What can I tell you?" or "What can I say?". It's literally, "What can I tell you to tell you?" There are two examples below to give you more context on how it's used. The first is from the Palestinian movie Paradise Now and the second is from season 5 episode 21 of the Syrian drama Bab al-Hara.

سها: السلام عليكم
ابو فلان: اهلا سها. كيفك؟ وين هالغيبة؟
سها: شو بدي أحكيلك تأحكيلك. مفاجآت الحياة كتيرة

Suha: Peace by upon you.
Abu So-and-so: Hello Suha. How are you? Where have you been for so long?
Suha: What can I tell you? Life has many surprises.

فلان (fulaan): "so-and-so". I don't know the guy's name so I just wrote ابو فلان .

وين هالغيبة (wayn hal gaybeh): This is like "long time no see". Literally it's "where this absence?", like "where have you been during this absence?".

ام جوزيف: بس يللي صار معي... آخخ صعب كتير كتير.
البنت: خير خير خير إن شاء الله! والله غليتيلي قلبي. شو يللي صاير معك؟
ام جوزيف: آخخخ. شو بدي أحكيلك لأحكيلك؟

Im Joseph: But what has happened to me... akhkh is very difficult.
Girl: I hope everything is ok! You've made my heart boil. What's happened to you?
Im Joseph: Akhkhkh. What can I say?

خير (khayr): "good". Here it's like "I hope everything is ok." Say you tell your friend that you just got a call from the hospital. He might say خير or خير ان شاء الله meaning that he hope's everything is ok.

غليتيلي قلبي (ghalayteelee albi): literally "you've made my heart boil". She means here that she's worried her.


Ramzy said...

In Palestinian dialect, they would use "biddak"(rhymes with "big duck") rather than "baddak." They way you said it in the video resembled Syrian/Lebanese more than Palestinian.

Anonymous said...

is the harf "ta" u used in the first video can be used interchangeably with the harf "lam" u used in the second video?
شو بدي أحكيلك تأحكيلك

شو بدي أحكيلك لأحكيلك

what does that means? thank you bro!!! a learnt a lot from your blog.

Anonymous said...

Two observations on:
"شو يللي صاير معك"

Considering it's Saair and not Saar why do you translate it as "what happened to you"? It seems to me that "what's happening to you" would be more accurate.

Also, first time I hear "yalli" instead of "illi"... Would you say that's common?

shajeel said...

Hello. I'm fan of you..I watch all the video posts by you..I found a li'l typographic error in this post, which is after the clip from 'Paradise now' in the description you typed 'Wein hal ghabiyeh' istead of wein hal ghalibeh' in Arabic.. I hope you will change it..Thanks alot for your videos..

The Arabic Student said...

Lol, thanks Shajeel. That's a funny typo though. :) وين هالغبية means "where is that stupid girl" for those who don't know.

shajeel said...

Keep up your good work Bro.

Anonymous said...

Hey Arabic Student,

great post! I just wanted to mention a little typo at the beginning, where you give the phrase in Arabic script. You wrote "شو بدي احليلك" instead of "شو بدي احكيلك".

Thanks again!