Lebanese Arabic: filling in the blanks
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 21, 2008
Living in Lebanon for so long has left me with curious gaps in my Arabic. There are plenty of words that I learned at one point and have simply forgotten, of course – but there are also plenty of words that in Lebanon I simply never used.
Yesterday I braved the ice-encrusted sidewalks to do errands and a few loads of laundry. When it came time to switch my loads from washer to dryer, the only one open was directly behind one of the laundromat’s Maghrebi employees, who was busily folding a fresh load of “serviced” laundry.
Most of the laundromat’s employees speak English as well as any native speaker, but I’ve noticed that this one avoids talking with customers. I should speak to her in Arabic, I thought. After all, I just need to ask her “Would you mind moving a bit so I can use the dryer?”
If only I had needed to ask to use the washer.
What is the word for “dryer”? I thought frantically as my mind remained blank. Why can’t I remember it?
Well, probably because I’ve never owned a dryer – not in Beirut, not in Damascus. What would it be? I wondered to myself. Jaffaf? But I didn’t want to risk it – I’ve tried using grammatical logic to come up with Arabic words before, and it has never ended well.
It wasn’t jaffaf exactly, but I was close: its مجفف. Yep – I looked it up as soon as I returned home.
Of course, this was the second Lebanon-specific gap in my Arabic that I discovered this past week. The first came thanks to the Russian government.
Hunh. What is the word for “Air Force”? I wondered as I read about Russia’s agreement to provide Lebanon with MiGs.
Technically, I believe, there has always been a Lebanese Air Force – although its flying capacity has been largely theoretical for the past few decades. But when people talk about the Lebanese military, they usually talk about the army.
I’m not holding my breath for a sudden infusion of dryers into my next stint in Beirut. But I do hope that the Lebanese Air Force becomes a major institution in its own right.