A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

the power of ish.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 30, 2008

One of my favorite words in English is not really a word at all. Its “ish”, which I use all the time as a modifier.

I don’t use it all that often in its classical application, as the suffix of an adjective: peckish, for example. I like “ish”on its own.

For example:

Are you hungry?




Was the movie interesting?


Apparently I am part of a larger, generational trend – one that extends to another favorite suffix, -esque. Word Reference has a wonderful forum discussion (archived from 2005) on both words and their use to indicate either approximation (2:30ish, today’s estimated lunch time) or uncertainty/skepticism (safe-ish, a perfect term for Beirut).

There is an Arabic word that works beautifully as the equivalent of “ish” – and no, its not “ya3ni” (although that can work – but its nice to have options).

Its “shi”, as in “thing”, and not to be confused with “shai”, as in “tea”.

“Shi” can be used as follows:

I’ll pick you up at shi 8:15

I’m working on something shi difficult today

I haven’t heard it used on its own yet, but I’ll keep my ears open. Or open-ish.



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