A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

“all of you is taste”: being polite in Arabic

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 5, 2007

Sometimes it seems to me that I learn my best Arabic expressions while listening to other people talking on the phone.

Hence while the “situation” in the country continues – a situation by now comprised of so many layers of contributing forces that I am starting to understand why so many people have turned to the simpler ‘solution’ of blaming it all on Syria, Hizbollah, the United States, or the Hariris – and my pupils slowly return to a less glassy state, I have been working on my Arabic.

What did you say to that man on the phone? I asked G the other night. You called him something – instead of mu3allam.

I didn’t call him anything, G replied. It was just a guy at the restaurant – I don’t know him.

But you said something else, I persisted. It sounded like amr ma3ruf.

Ohhhhh, G said, smiling. a3mil ma3rouf. It means “please”.

What? I said. What do you mean?

Well, G replied, what do you say for please?

I say “please”, I said. That’s what people do in Beirut – say “please” and “thank you” in English, and carry on the rest of the conversation in Arabic. Or I say “lo sama7t”.

Of course, G said, rolling his eyes. You would – you and that Syria thing.

“Please”, of course, means “please. “Lo sama7t” means “if you permit”, and “a3mil ma3rouf” means “[your] deed [will be] known”. I could swear that I had never heard the expression before G used it – but of course since then I’ve heard it countless times. Its like buying a yellow car – once you own one, all the others on the road suddenly become more prominent.

Meanwhile, I had been hearing a phrase over and over again without knowing exactly what it was.

Keelek zo2, one of my acquaintances says near the close of every work-related phone call. I understood that it was something polite, but not precisely what. Finally, I asked, and after pronouncing it clearly so I could hear the second word, another acquaintance wrote it out for me:

۞كلك ذوق۞

Translating figuratively, the phrase is equivalent to “you are too kind” or “its very kind of you”.

Translated literally, keelek zo2 means: “all of you is taste”, with “taste” understood in the “having good taste” sense, rather than in the “tastes like strawberries” sense.

The next time I have on an outfit that I particularly like, I’m going to stand in front of a mirror and tell myself: keelik zo2.


One Response to ““all of you is taste”: being polite in Arabic”

  1. intlxpatr said

    I love this post!

    “Its like buying a yellow car – once you own one, all the others on the road suddenly become more prominent.” Isn’t that the truth!

    You’ll have to teach me those very polite and beautiful Lebanese phrases!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: