In Tamazight, the word for baby is "mumu", pronounced exactly like it looks - moo-moo. Because of the heavy French influence in Morocco, from colonization and then from the ongoing French tourism, nearly everyone recognizes the French word "bebe". *Nearly* everyone. Uneducated women, which includes most of the women in my village, know only Tamazight, not any Darija (Arabic) or French.
The other key word you need to know for this story is "bibi", which means "turkey" in Tamazight.
Recently, some French tourists stayed with my host family, while my Xalti and her new baby were visiting. They clucked over the "bebe", murmuring various French endearments. Some of Ama's friends dropped by for tea, like they do most days. They heard the tourists, and turned to them with consternation. "Iga mumu, mashi afulus!" they cried with alarm.
"It's a baby, not a chicken!"
I wasn't there at the time, but Ama delighted in recounting the story to me. And to everyone who stopped by for the next week or two. This story is going to be around for a while...
The next time Ama asked me to keep an eye on the bebe while she and Xalti were in the kitchen, I turned to her, with wide eyes and alarm in my voice, and said, "Iga mumu, mashi afulus!"
She laughed all the way across the house.
9 months ago