The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Arabic Made Easy
Arabic Made Easy.
(The following article, by the author of a standard Arabic dictionary, is published in response to requests from "K.O.C." subscribers, that Arabic words and phrases that appear frequently in the Magazine should be translated for the benefit of Home readers—Ed.)
Australians and New Zealanders in Egypt and Palestine every day hear the Arabic language spoken by the natives and some Europeans; but it is as strange to them as Chinese. They have, in all probability, picked up a few words or phrases, generally learned from their friends, which they use in their dealings with the natives. But as they usually learn these secondhand, their pronunciation of them is not, in all cases, correct; and it would not be strange if they had only a notion of their sense.
I propose to give here a number of such words and phrases, with their correct spelling, pronunciation, and meaning.
One of the most familiar and simplest Arabic words is aiwa, which means "yes". It is easy to pronounce, as it has not any of the letters, guttural or coming from deep down in the throat, which distinguish the Arabic language. The opposite to aiiva is la, which, of Course, is equally simple.
Ma'lesh is not simple. It means "It does not matter", or "Never mind", and is really two words, not one, the second beginning with a letter which can only be represented here by a comma. Ma'lêsh is pronounced by forcing the air deep down in the throat. Another phrase in which the letter mentioned above appears is Ta'âla hena, which is the Arabic for "Come here". A third is sa'îda, and it literally means "happy" or "good", but is used in the sense of "Good morning" or "Good evening". It is the abbreviation of Eltak sa'îda or Naharak sa'îd, and is used by the natives in the same manner as the English often salute each other by saying only "Morning", instead of "Good morning".
This letter, which is called in Arabic 'ain, occurs also in the expression Mush 'âwiz, which being interpreted is "I do not want (it)". It is useful when one is pestered by a pedlar to buy one of the article he sells. Mush is the negative and 'âwiz means "I want". In other words, Musk 'âwiz stands for "I have no need of it".
Ba'dên is another of the words in which this letter 'ain occurs, which is very frequently used. It means literally "afterwards" or "then", but is not infrequently used in the sense of "not now" or "some other time".
When annoyed by a pedlar a soldier often says khalas, to dismiss the man. This word literally means "finish", but is used in the sense of "That
is all", and consequently, that the man should not wait any longer. If he insists on pressing his wares on one, the word Imshî can be used, meaning "Go away", or "Be off with you". Imshî min hena is a stronger expression, meaning "Get away from this place". These two expressions, however, should not be addressed to any but the lowest classes, as they are very offensive. Another equally offensive expression in this sense is Rûh which means "Go away"; but Rûh fî dahya is the worst of all, as it is stronger than the English expression "Go to the devil".
To inquire after the health of another, one uses a much shorter expression in Arabic than the English "How are you?". You have only to say Izzayak, which, as it is full of consonants, is easy both to remember and to pronounce. Literally, it means "How you?" the verb to be being understood.
Approval of an article or an act is conveyed by the word kuwaiyis, which means "nice" or "pretty", whilst a strong expression of this idea is conveyed by adding kitîr or awee, meaning "much" or "very". But when the idea is the reverse you should prefix mush to kuwaiyis, it being the equivalent of "not"; thus Mush kuwaiyis means "not nice". I am afraid this expression is sometimes not used literally, but to get rid of an importunate pedlar. Another word which I believe is also used in this sense is bukra, which means "tomorrow". When addressed to a pedlar it is meant to convey the ides, that if he comes on the following day, you may buy from him; but the man of the street, who has a great experience of life, understands that you mean only to dismiss him in a polite manner.
I now come to a word which is among the first, if not the very first, that foreigners in Egypt learn—I mean filûs, which is the Arabic word for money, and, naturally, is used very often. When you wish to state that vou have no money, you must say Ma fish filûs; but this expression is also used sometimes to dismiss a beggar or an annoying pedlar. Literally, it means "There is no money", although it is used by the foreigner to mean "I have no money".
The Arabic interjection is ya and should be placed before a substantive. Thus the Arabs say: Yâ waled (boy) Yâ bint (girl) in calling them. To tell an Arab to get out of the way, you should say û'a. Here again we have this letter 'ain, as in 'âwiz and ba'den. It also means "mind", U'a riglak which coachmen and others often cry, means "Mind your foot".
A very familiar Arabic word is igri, which means "run"; it is equivalent to the English "fly", when one sends a boy on an errand, and desires him to go and return as quickly as he can. Another word meaning "quickly" is awam; it is used for the same purpose.