Tuesday, September 19, 2006

House of nuts?

During my two-week Syrian dialect class, which ended yesterday, I’ve learned a few expressions, terms and proverbs, which may or may not open a window on the Syrian soul.

“Problems are the salt of life.” Salt in Arabic culture is highly valued. The Levantine colloquial word for “good,” or “well” -- mineeh -- in describing a state of being, is derived from the Arabic word for salt, “melah.”

“House of nuts.” In Syria, nuts, particularly pistachios, are also highly valued. This is a derogatory term for a family that compliments each other to the point of empty praise.

“What is better than honey? Free vinegar.” Said to someone who decides against purchasing something desirable but expensive, instead choosing something far less desirable but free.

“Sick, tired.” If you hear someone tell you this, it means you’re on your death bed.

“The age of hopelessness.” The Arabic medical term for menopause.

“The house of your mother’s sister”: Slang for prison.

“The coming of her mother’s sister”: Slang for a woman’s menstrual period.

The word for a woman who is well-reasoned -- museebeh -- also means catastrophe

“The horn from the neighborhood is not pleasing,” which equates to an English expression: “The grass is greener on the other side.”

“He who is not jealous is a donkey!” Some forms of jealousy are considered a virtue, not a sin.

To lend money -- deyan -- also means to make someone religious. To borrow money -- iddeyan -- also means to become religious.

“He who loans to another is a donkey and he who gives it back is more of a donkey.”

“God willing, He will bury me (before you)!” It said affectionately by a mother to her daughter, expressing hope that the daughter will outlive her mother. It is never said by a man.


Blogger Marianna said...

OMG I freakin love your blog!! I have some family in Syria (although Ive never lived there, but been there a couple of times).
I also love the "The age of hopelessness" for menopause...how cruel, but funny... also the first time I hear of that expression!

2:33 AM  

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