Thursday

Arabic Saying: We're confused, baldy. Where do we kiss you?

Ok, this saying sounds pretty strange.  In Arabic it's احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك which literally translates to "We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?".  In this clip from the RoyaTV YouTube channel people give their opinions on what the phrase means.  The consensus is that it refers to someone who is difficult to satisfy. When you try to satisfy someone but they keep giving you a hard time you'd get fed up and say this saying.  The explanation they hint at in the clip is as follows:

You kiss a person on the cheek, which is a bald part of the head.  However if you are kissing a someone who has no hair their head is all bald so you don't know where to kiss them.  So, you're trying to kiss the person (i.e. do something nice for them), but since they are bald you don't know where to do it, meaning that the person is not someone who you can easily do something nice for (kiss) or satisfy them.  Really odd, I know.

Here's the thing though.  Some of the people in the clip take the saying to be talking about someone bald, اقرع. And some take it to be talking about a pumpkin قرعة.  You can see why the words قرعة and اقرع are related.  Someone bald has no hair, just like a pumpkin.  The word قرعة can mean bald too though.  So whether you take the saying to be talking about a pumpkin or a bald person, it still means the same thing.  No need to analyze the saying too much.  The important thing is that we know how it's used.  It just means someone who is hard to satisfy. 

Let's look at the clip!
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احترنا يا قرعة منين نبوسك.  يعني في حدا صعب.. فتفكيره صعب فصعب ترضيه بطريقة معيّنة.  فأظن شبهوها بالقرعة... النبتة يعني عشانها مدورة و بكل محل نفس الإشي فبتحتار تبوسها في محل.  أظن.  بعرفش
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you.  It means there's someone difficult... so his thinking is difficult, so it's hard to satisfy him in a certain way.  So I think they likened it to a pumpkin, the plant, I mean because it's round and it's the same in every place so you get confused where to kiss it in a place.  I think.  I don't know.

احترنا يا فرعة من وين نبوسك؟  قرعة شعرها محلوق.  وين نبوسك؟  ما بعرف الصراحة
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  A bald person, her hair is shaved.  Where do we kiss you?  I frankly don't know.


احترنا يا قرعة منين نبوسك.  مثل قديم.  ببساطة انه في ناس كثير هالايام بتحيّرك و ما بتعرف شو بدك, كيف بدك ترضيها بالاخر فبينحكى المثل هذا... بالاخر كيف بدنا نرضيك او كيف بدنا... عارف؟  احترنا يا اقرع منين نبوسك
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It's an old saying.  Simply it's that there are a lot of people these days that confuse you and you don't know what you... how you can satisfy them in the end.  So this saying is said... in the end how do we satisfy or how can we... know what I mean?  We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?
((You notice that he says اقرع, bald, here instead of قرعة, pumpkin.  I think the words can be interchangeable.  Like if you called someone a pumpkin head, meaning they were bald.))

احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟  يعني ما عرفنا كيف نرضيك او مش عارفين ايش نعمل عشان نرضيك. اظن
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It means we don't know how to satisfy you or we don't know what to do to satisfy you.  I think.       

احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟  يعني يعني يعني شخص معيّن و يكون كتير كتير بيغلّب و مهما حاولت معاه مش ضابط ولا إشي فبتحكي احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟ 
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It means... there's a certain person and he really, really gives people a hard time and no matter how hard you tried with him nothing works, so you say "We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?"

Monday

Arabic Lesson - Throw it in the Trash

In Syrian and Lebanese dialect, the way to say "throw" is كبّ "kibb".  This is used in sentences like كبّه بالزبالة (kibbu bizzibaleh) - "throw it in the trash", and كبّ الطابة (kabb attabeh) - "he threw the ball".  Kibb is the imperative.  Just like إرمي (irmi) - "throw" in MSA. Kabb is the masculine past tense, "he threw".
The following clip is from a Syrian show called رومانتيكا Romantica which revolves around a big love triangle, or more like a love pentagon.  The name of the girl yelling in the clip is تهاني (Tahani).  She's telling كوكب (Kokab) to throw away a bouquet (باقة) of flowers that was given to her.  That's all the context needed to get what's going on.

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تهاني: كوكب, كبيها كبيها
كوكب: ما بدك ياها؟
تهاني: لا.  كبيها بالزبالة
كوكب: ليش حتى كبها؟ نشّفها و بعملها زهورات

Tahani: Kokab, throw it out, throw it out.
Kokab: You don't want it?
Tahani: No.  Throw it in the trash.
Kokab: Why should I throw it away?  I'll dry them and make dried flowers (zuhurat).

So I had to look up what زهورات was.  I did a Google image search and it came back with pictures of dried flowers that people put into tea.  I imagine she's joking here when she says to dry to flower bouquet to put into tea.  You really learn something every day with Arabic. 

Saturday

Arabic Measure Chart



This Arabic verb measure chart (zoom in) is very useful when starting out with Modern Standard Arabic.  You'll need to know these forms just to look up words in the Hans Wehr dictionary.  In Arabic the verbs are usually formed from a 3 letter root, فعل for example.  There are 10 measures in Arabic, which is to say there are 10 different ways that the 3 letter root can be changed.  10 different patterns it can follow.  These changes to the root change the meaning of the verb.  For instance, if you put a shadda ّ  on the middle letter of a verb (meaning you stress that letter), it takes whatever the meaning of measure I was (the normal 3 letter root with no changes) and makes it cause measure I to happen.  As with so many things in language learning, explaining it makes little sense until you see an example.

The verb سمع (sami'a measure I) means "to hear".  If you say سمعنا صوتك (sami'na sawtak) it means "we heard your voice", but if you use سمّع (measure II) and say سمّعنا صوتك (sammi'na sawtak) it means literally "make us hear your voice".  A teacher could use this phrase when asking a student to answer a question.

Another example, the verb جمل (jamala, measure I) means "to be beautiful", but if you use measure II, جمّل (jammala), then it becomes "to beautify, to make beautiful".  You get the phrase جراحة التجميل, "plastic surgery" (literally "beautification surgery") from this measure.

So that's a quick intro into the measure system in Arabic.  The chart on this post lists the 10 measures and how they are conjugated.  The chart is a tad confusing if you aren't familiar with grammar terms.  Under ACTIVE where it says PERFECT (Past), that's past tense.  Where it says IMPERFECT (Present), that's present tense.

IMPERATIVE (Command) is how you conjugate orders and commands.  In English we just say the word.  If I want you to write, I just say "write".  In Arabic you have to change the word a little which the chart shows.  There isn't always a rule that works all the time.  Like for the command conjugation, you see under measure one for commands there are a lot of different ways to do it and they depend on the verb.  For instance, إسمع (isma') is imperative for "listen", but أُكتب (uktub) is imperative for "write".  Sometimes you just have to know and the chart won't help.

Another very important column on the chart is the VERBAL NOUN (MASDAR) column.  That tells you how to change a verb into its noun equivalent.  You'll notice earlier in the post I wrote جراحة التجميل (jirahat atajmeel).  The word تجميل is measure II, even though it doesn't look the same as جمّل .  That's because جمّل (to beautify) is the verb and التجميل (beautification) is the noun.  Usually this is synonymous with adding -ing to words in English.  Like with "write" and "the writing".  In Arabic this is كتب and الكتابة, both are measure I.  If you look at the VERBAL NOUN (MASDAR) column for measure I, you'll see فعالة which is the same form as كتابة. You'll notice there are several different patterns in the measure I verbal noun box, so the chart only gives you an idea of how it might be made.  It isn't a foolproof solution.  For measure II though, the vast majority of the time, it's تفعيل , the same measure as تجميل .  I can't even think of a word that uses تفعلة , the other pattern that it has in the measure II box.

Anyway, I hope this wasn't too confusing.  There's a lot you can analyze when talking about Arabic measures, I just went over some of the most important parts.  Measure IV is another very important one, it does the exact same thing as measure II, just looks different.  Then you have measure VII which makes the word passive, like, "it was written" versus "he wrote".  That's an important one.  The measures don't always work out and a lot of the time you just have to memorize things, but they are worth knowing.



Monday

Arab Cup Reading تبصير بالفنجان

Some people in the Arab world believe that you can tell someone's future by reading the coffee grounds left in a cup of coffee the person drank.  Most people don't believe this and it's much like tarot card or palm readings in the US.  The word for this coffee cup reading is تبصير (tabseer).  This word is really easy to remember since the root is بصر which means "to see".  To do a cup reading is measure 2, so بصّر or تبصير

In the Arab world coffee is drunk from a small cup called a فنجان (finjan).  The coffee still has grounds in it which are left over once you drink the coffee as you can see in the picture.  The person reading the cup will have the person whose cup it is put their thumb print (بصمة, basmah) in the coffee grounds and then they will tell the person's future based on the patterns in the coffee grounds.
There's also a part of the reading where they turn the cup upside down.  I'm not sure how that plays into it all, but the word they use for "turn it upside down" is طب (tub).  In the video clip below the cup reader says قوليلها طب حتى شوف لها المستور , "tell her to turn it over so I can see the hidden (meanings)".  The interpreter interprets "turn it over" as "bend over".  That's the joke. 

The video is from a Lebanese comedy show called كتير سلبي on MTV Lebanon.

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Wednesday

Egyptian Arabic Lesson from Hikayat Banat

This lesson is from the new show Hikayat Banat (حكايات بنات) which means "Girls' Stories".  The show is from the Ramadan 2012 line up on MBC and is in Egyptian dialect.  I haven't been watching it, but I went to a random episode and started listening for some speech that would make a good lesson.  This telephone soliloquy by one of the characters works well.  All you need to know as far as context goes is that she's trying to reach her husband and his secretary doesn't know where he is.


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  • يعني ايه حببتي ما تعرفيش هو فين؟
What do you mean, baby, that you don't know where he is?

يعني ايه - what do you mean? (literally "what does it mean", but we wouldn't say that in English)
حببتي - you'll notice that this is pronounced differently from MSA and Levantine dialects where it is حبيبتي .  In Egyptian they get rid of the ي in the middle and it becomes حببتي.
ما تعرفيش - the ش at the end is to negate.  ما تعرفي means the same thing, but in Egyptian they put a ش at the end of the verb too when negating it.

  • هو انتي برضه مش السكرتيرة بتاعته ولا انا فاهمة غلط؟
Aren't you still his secretary or am I mistaken?

هو - this literally means "he", but in Egyptian they will just put هو in as a filler.  It's kind of like انه in some Levantine dialects. 
برضه (bardu) - means "still" or "also".
بتاعته - "belonging to him".  The base word is بتاع.  If it's a feminine word that is possessed then it becomes بتاعت .  And then at the end you put who it belongs to.  In this case it refers to "secretary" which is feminine, بتاعت , and it's her husband's secretary, so it's بتاعته .
ولا - "or".  Does not mean "and not".


  • و هو انا كنت مستنية الفكرة العبقرية بتاعتك دي. مانا كلّمته على الموبايل و لقيته مقفول
I was waiting for this genius idea from you. I called his cellphone and it was off.

From the context the secretary must have suggested that she call him on his cellphone. 
هو - Same thing as I mentioned before.  They just throw in هو sometimes.
عبقرية - genius
دي - short for هذه .  Means "this".  For هذا they say ده (da).
مانا - she puts an م on the front of انا here.  They do that sometimes.  Don't worry about it.
لقيته - I found it.
مقفول - means "locked", but when talking about a cellphone it means "off".

  • اوكي يا جيجي.  اوكي.  لا خلاص.  انا عرفت دلوقتي ان انتي ما بتعرفيش عنه اي حاجة خالص
Ok, Gigi.  Ok.  No, it's fine.  I know now that you don't know anything about him at all.

خلاص - means "it's finished/done". 
دلوقتي - "now"
خالص - "at all".  In Syrian they would say بنوب .  In MSA إطلاقاً

  • انا هتصرّف.  باي
I'll act.  Bye.

تصرّف - to act/to behave (basically she means she'll figure it out/take care of it).  The ه at the beginning of the word is for future tense.

Sunday

Arabic Saying: Hit the Iron while it's Hot

I am subscribed to the Jordan TV channel RoyaTV on YouTube.  They put up a lot of stuff so I don't watch it all, but today I happened to click on a clip titled على رأي المثل : اضرب الحديد وهو حامي. The show is called على رأي المثل ('ala ra'i almathal) which is how you say in Arabic "as the saying goes".  They go around and ask people what a saying means.  This is absolutely perfect for those learning Arabic.  You get a bunch of different people talking about what common Arabic sayings mean to them.  Since the channel is Jordanian the responses are in Jordanian and Palestinian dialect, but these sayings mean the same thing everywhere.  The saying in this clip is "hit the iron while it's hot". 


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اضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني ما تأجلش الموضوع. ساويه هسا او... يعني ما تأجلوش ساويه هسا
Hit the iron while it's hot means don't postpone the issue.  Do it now or... I mean don't postpone it.  Do it now.

(The ش at the end of تأجل is there to negate it.  This is used in Palestinian dialect.  ساويه means do it.  هسا means now.  It comes from هذه الساعة and in some places is said with an ع. هسع.)

اضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني... تفوت بموضوع او... مش شرط موضوع بس... يعني حعطيك مثل.  يعني مثلا صار في مشكلة او اشي.  تروح تحكي مع الانسان بالمشكلة او بتفوت بالموضوع على طول قبل ما يبرد الموضوع.  لا؟  مش هيك؟  ما بعرف.
Hit the iron while it's hot means... enter into an issue or... it doesn't have to be an issue but... I mean I'll give you an example.  I mean for example, (if) there is a problem or something, go talk with the person about the problem or enter into the issue right away before the issue gets cold.  No?  That's not it?  I don't know.

(The phrase here مش شرط means "it doesn't have to be".  A شرط is a condition or a term in an agreement.  In حعطيك the ح indicates future tense.  على طول means "right away".)

دق الحديد و هو حامي... اذا ناويت... اي واحد اذا ناوى يعمل شغلة و فيها خير و توكل على الله يعملها على طول
Hit the iron while it's hot... if I intended... anyone if he intended to do something and it's good (he should) rely on God and do it right away.

(دق is a dialect word for hit.)

لما يضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني لازم يعمل اشي و لساته بمحله. بوقته
When someone hits the iron while it's hot it means that one should do something while it's still in its place.  In its time.

بظن المثل بيحكي انه لما يكون عندك فرصة على طول تستغلها و ما انه ما منستنى.  ما منستنى لاشياء تصير انه عشان احيانا الاشياء ما بتتحسن.  فانه على طول لما يكون في فرصة منستغلها منشان احتمال تكون احسن فرصة.
I think that the saying says that when you have an opportunity, take advantage of it right away and don't... we don't wait.  We don't wait for something to happen because sometimes things don't get better.  So, right away when there's an opportunity we take advantage of it because it might be the best opportunity. 

(The word يستغل means "to take advantage of an opportunity".  Young people use the word انه in Jordan a lot.  It's a filler a lot of the time.  Like the word "like" in the US.  Literally it means "that".  رجائي قواس has a comedy bit making fun of this.)

دق الحديد و هو حامي معناته بس يجي بحياتك فرصة كبيرة او انه حتى لو فرصة صغيرة يعني خذها و انت واثق من حالك و احتمال تطلع انه فرصة كبيرة و بتغير بحياة الواحد
Hit the iron when it's hot means whenever a big opportunity comes into your life or, even if it's a small opportunity, I mean, take it and be sure of yourself and it's possible that it will turn out to be a big opportunity and (it could) change a person's life.

(The word تطلع here means "to turn out to be".)

يعني لحق الموضوع و هو يعني بالقمة تبعته.  يعني اذا كنت متخانقة مع حدا و بدك تعمل اشي استغل الفرصة و اعمل الاشي الي بدك تعمله
It means catch the issue while it is, I mean, at its pinnacle.  I mean if you were fighting with someone and you want to do something, take advantage of the opportunity and do the thing that you want to do.

يعنى انا و سها تخانقنا... صح؟  بروح بحكي معها دغري عشان ضربت الحديد و هو حامي
If Suha and I were fighting... right?  I (would) go talk with her right away so that I hit the iron while it's hot.