Slang words

Community Interaction Task #1

One interesting thing about ARabic is how distinct the dialects are. Generally, the region of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan is referred to as the Sham. There is a general Shami dialect but even within this each country has distinct dialects. Here in Jordan, especially amongst the more rural populations, girls are taught from a young age to drop the ق (q) sound because it has a rough, masculine sound/connotation. Girls are taught to drop this letter entirely and pronounce the word without it. So the word for coffee – qahwa – simply becomes ahwa. Boys are taught to pronounce it with a hard g sound – so qahwa becomes gahwa.

Another interesting thing about the colloquial language here is how Muslims and Christians pronounce the same words or phrases, especially religiously-infused words or phrases. For example, it is very common here to hear the word “Al-Hamdoulileh” which literally means Thanks to God. It can be used for just about everything: How are you? “Al-Hamdoulileh [I am fine].” Someone might remark that the weather is nice, and someone else might respond by saying “Al Hamdoulileh” (Thanks to God it is nice.) And so on and so forth. Another common expression is “Masha’a Allah” which is a general way of expressing appreciation and thanks to God – for just about anything. A new car? Masha’a Allah. A beautiful baby? Masha’a Allah. Delicious food? Masha’a Allah. The interesting thing here in how these words are used colloquially is that – very generally speaking – Muslims tend to pronounce them very distinctly and classically – without dropping vowels and so forth, while Christians tend to make them more slang-ish. So while Muslims might say al-Hamdoulileh very properly, Christians might drop some of the vowels and just say “Hamdoullah.”

A few young people I spoke with said that this was because Muslims view these words as Divinely inspired and so forth, and so there is a degree of respect for the words themselves and the ARabic as the language of God. Christians have just as much respect for religion and for God but don’t necessarily view ARabic as the language of GOd.