Thursday, May 7, 2009


At times I’ll concede I’m prone to waffle. Never one to favour conciseness over an indolent array of apposite (or indeed, inapposite) adjectival meanderings, at times I find myself gorging on the fudgy goodness of excess verbiage rather than simply getting to the point. But being in Syria has taught me two things. The first is ALWAYS roll up your trouser legs before using a squat toilet. And the second is that sometimes quite complex communications can be distilled into a few well-chosen words. M employs a charming brevity of speech that can speak volumes in one short utterance. When I compare what he says to how I would have said it, it’s clear I waste a lot of breath. For example:

“Is look in lemon.” This means “Would you please taste this soup and tell me if I need to add any more lemon?”

Or, somewhat boldly, “Is in red?” This perplexing question translates to “Are you currently experiencing your ladytimes, or is there another reason you are sobbing and eating a biscuit?”

M taught us all something through the week when, clutching a bunch of rocket, announced “Is good in sleep men.” This apparently translates to “Rocket has a range of benefits to the reproductive health of males.” Who would’ve thunk?

He very nearly lost me when he approached my work table and said “Blotos.” Blank stare from me. Again, “Blotos.” Nope, sorry. Employing the time-honoured method of clarifying things to people who don’t speak your language, he leaned closer and raised his voice “BLOOOOWTOSSSSSS.” Ahhh, of course he meant “Would you please enable bluetooth on your mobile so I might share with you some amusing animations?”

I have learned that it's quite effective to employ the same techniques in Arabic. For example, when it was time for M to go the the airport (or "Airrot", as the sign says) to pick up someone, I said to him "Lazim alahn beit tiara". Which literally means "Must now aeroplane house".

Is small word good.


  1. Ah taxi Arabic, the broken communication of the middle east, northern Africa and several parts of London/Paris/New York/Los Angeles.

    Oh and Coburg.

    "Blotos" would lose me as well, not least because I don't think my phone is blue-tooth enabled. Or if it is I haven't reached that part of the manual yet.

    I think you need more books though.

  2. Try thinking 'what would Borat say?' (No, not the bit about President Bush drinking the blood of every Iraqi .....)


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