I am a sucker for interesting vocabulary words. It’s nerdy, but I love finding new ways to express myself and every time I get a little closer to depicting an exact thoughts rather than verbally dancing around a subject in Arabic, I get super excited. When I don’t know how to say sometime, I’ll often make up a metaphor that, despite making complete sense in my head (and often sound rather poetic, if you ask me!) don’t exactly, um, carry over to the other conversing party.
Anyway, this week has been really good for me in terms of learning new vocabulary. I’m spending a bit of time with an organization in Jerusalem doing work collecting individual, family, and community testimonies of those who have either had their homes demolished or live in the constant shadow of looming demolition orders. Politics aside (and, while I’m sure you can infer what mine are concerning this subject, I have an 8-page paper to write and don’t particularly feel like dueling it out on the internet–if you’d like to discuss specifics when I return from Jerusalem, I’d love to debate/throw ideas around over coffee.), this requires me to learn a whole new slew of vocab that I wouldn’t otherwise use (bulldozer, demolition order, tin, Israeli Civil Administration, governate and compensation weren’t huge on my list of go-to words…until now!).
Big words aside, my favorite vocab to pick up is definitely local slang, and my Egyptian slang for words such as “hottie”, and “badass” don’t really fly here in Jerusalem, so I’m slowly learning to replace them with Palestinian lingo–you know, so I can sound like one of the Taybeh-guzzling bros.
Sometimes, like any language student, I get totally lost and confused in conversation. I have, however, found an Arabic phrase for this utter bewilderment: زي الأطرش بالزفة (zay alatrash bialzafa). It literally translates to “like a deaf person at a wedding”. Not exactly politically correct, but this is the Middle East, and I firmly believe that idiomatic expressions are, like food (oh, yeah, and swear words, but I’ll save those for your own personal linguistic adventures), one of the best ways to the belly of a culture.