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!

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