A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

“just say yes”: street vs. high street Arabic

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 20, 2007

Guess what? I asked G last night. I ordered delivery from the ba2ala last night, for the first time ever.

They speak English? G asked, leaning forward. I’m not known for my love of speaking Arabic over the phone.

Errr, no, I replied. I spoke Arabic.

Really? G asked, eyes lighting up at the rare opportunity to hear my Arab World mizwajiyyeh accent. Tell me exactly what you told them.

And I did, repeating a very exciting list of bottled water, milk and other products, as well as my typically American attempt to give directions to my building. G started to laugh at “bottle of water” and didn’t stop until I neared the end.

And then he said, “the building near the hair salon?” I finished, and I said, “yes”, and the delivery guy arrived twenty minutes later.

G looked at me seriously, the laughter gone, and asked: And what did you say for “yes”?

Ay, I replied, quite pleased with myself for having avoided the schoolgirl Arabic “na3m”.

You shouldn’t use “ay”, G said, frowning. “Ay” is fine when you are talking with your friends, but using it with strangers is very …. street. Its a bit low class, you know?

Horrors. I am an inveterate snob, language and otherwise. I am too stuffy for “yeah”, and I consider “thanks” too casual for nearly any occasion.

And by no stretch of even the most generous imagination could I be considered “street”. I’ll be using na3m from now on.

One Response to ““just say yes”: street vs. high street Arabic”

  1. intlxpatr said

    I love it, Little Diamond. In German, I used to call my husband by the correct word, but I was taken aside and told that the word I was using ws appropriate if your husband was like the president, but not in normal use – with friends, I was calling him the equivalent of “my most exalted husband” *dying laughing* But how cool, to be catching all these relatively subtle distinctions, not just surviving, eh?

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