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4/7/09 Word of the Day: 3mmr

Whenever I travel in Morocco, my ears stay open for the few words of Darija that are the same as words in Tamazight. One that comes in handy is 3mmr, which means full. It is used to refer to pitchers and buckets, as in "the opposite of empty", and is also used where we in English would have some other antonym for empty, like "taken", as in, "This seat is taken," (l-blas-tx i3mmr).

[Sidenote: The longer I'm here, the more complex English vocabulary seems. Why do we have so many words for virtually the same concept? I mean, I know why - our complicated linguistic heritage, giving us words from Provencale, French, German, and the Nordic languages - but it still seems bizarre.]

While traveling back from Spring Camp, I started to board a bus and was told that it was i3mmr. Full. But Moroccan buses routinely carry more passengers than there are seats, and I really wanted to get going, so I climbed on anyway. Sure enough, there were no seats available, but I found a space by the back stairs where I could nestle in on the floor.

Moments later, the jumper asked for my ticket. I told him I didn't have one, and asked what the price was. He quoted me a price that's at least double a fair fare. (Hey, that's a homynym.) I stared him down, and asked what the real price was. He didn't flinch, but the onlookers ('cause when are there *not* onlookers?) shared the mischevious smile that I've come to associate with being tricked.

(Side note: deception is a key part of the Moroccan sense of humor, I've discovered. People will look you in the eye and tell you (1) your bus left an hour early, (2) your pet died while you were away, (3) there are no more of [whatever staple item you're trying to buy] left in the province, etc...and after you start to panic/flip out/cry/whatever, they laugh and laugh and laugh and tell you it was a big joke. I've run into this countless times. I never find it funny, but folks around me always do.)

So I chuckled, and quoted back a more fair price. He stood his ground. I caught the eye of the only woman nearby, and asked her what a fair price was. She looked away. All the men watching this little scene chimed in that the price he'd quoted was the real one. When he refused to back down, I gave up and handed him the money. Everyone around me had a good laugh at their collective ability to deceive the tarumit, and I felt a bad mood begin to percolate.

I nestled back down into my corner and felt grumpy.

A few minutes later, though, the woman nearby leaned over and whispered that yes, I'd been more than double-charged.

I wondered why she hadn't stood up for me before, but appreciated her honesty enough not to take out my grumpiness on her.

She continued, "The people sitting right over there will be getting off in a second. If you move quickly, we can get those seats." Sure enough, they stood up as the bus began to slow down. Some of the encircling men tried to move towards the soon-to-be-freed seats, but she batted them away, then motioned me over. A moment later, I found myself perched on the rise between the two bucket seats. Apparently, three of us were going to share these two seats. (All female, of course.)

As we continued on our route, the three of us chatted while the bus continued to empty out. When we got to my new friend's stop, she told me that I should come by for tea whenever I came back through, and then she and the other girl climbed down off the bus, leaving me with an abundance of space and a heart i3mmr.

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