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June 30, 2008 Names

As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are a handful of names that appear in droves in the families of Berberville. Boys’ names, in descending order of frequency, are Mohammad, Ali, Sa3id, and variations on Mohammad like Moha and Hamo. For girls, it’s Fatima, 3isha, and the Berber names of Rebha, Rqia, and Ito. I’ve never met a Khadija, even though it’s supposed to be common, but I have met a Kalima, Habiba, Miriam, along with several Fatimas, 3ishas, Rebhas, and Itos. Just now, I was introduced to a Hajar. It took me a lot of tries to get it right – and I only just now figured out that it’s Hagar, mother of Ishmael, given the local g-to-j pronunciation and soft vowels – because it’s pretty much pronounced Ha-a.

“Tga tarbatinu. Ismins Hagar.” This is my daughter. Her name is Hagar.
“Mcharfin, Haza.” Nice to meet you, Haza.
“Oho, Hagar.” No, Hagar.
Finally, my auntie intervened, and stretched the syllables out in slow motion.
“Mcharfin, Hagar.”

The middle letter is almost inaudible, as is the final rolled r. Sort of like how “had to” in American English sounds more like “hadda”.

Just a day in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer…..

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