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5/30/09 Greetings

I know I talk about the greeting ritual a lot, but I don't think I've ever explained it in full. I'm prompted to by this exchange I heard between newbies:

Newbie #1: It took me *two*weeks* to learn how to say hello.
Newbie #2: It *takes* two weeks to say hello.
Newbie #3: It doesn't take two weeks to say hello. It only takes two weeks if you want to say it *right*.

In truth, exchanging greetings is a long and complicated process, but one which all residents and visitors need to know. (That's a hint to any of you planning to come here.) Let me walk you through it. All the even numbers are the same person, all the odd numbers are the other person.

1: Salaamu 3alaikum! (Peace be upon you!)
2: Wa 3alaikum as-salaam! (And upon you, peace!)
3: Labas? (How are you? Literally, are you fine?)
4: Labas. (I'm fine.)
5: Bixir? (Are you well?)
6: Bixir. (I'm well.)
7: Kulshi bixir? (Is everything good?)
8: Kulshi bixir, lhumdullah. (Everything is good, thanks be to God.)
9: Lhumdullah. (Thanks be to God.)
10: Aud shm/shi? (And you? - km or shm if you're speaking to a woman, ki or shi if you're speaking to a man. As I've said before, my region treats k's and sh's as interchangeable.)
10, cont: Is labas ghorm/ghorsh? (How are you?)
11: Labas. (I'm fine.)
12: Bixir? (Are you well?)
13: Bixir. (I'm well.)
14: Kulshi bixir? (Is everything good?)
15: Kulshi bixir, lhumdullah. (Everything is good, thanks be to God.)
16: Lhumdullah. Aud familia? Is labas ghors? (Thanks be to God. And your family? Is all well with them?)
17: Labas, lhumdullah. (All is well, thanks be to God.)
18: Lhumdullah. (Thanks be to God.)

If you know other family members by name, you can ask about them individually. My host mom always asks about my parents and usually about my sister. Because she's pregnant, I always ask how the baby is doing. She always grins at this - apparently it's outside the norm - but she doesn't seem to mind at all, and I like expressing interest in the wellbeing of my future sibling. :)

OK, so now the pronounciations.

1: Salaamu 3alaikum. Salaam sounds just like salami without the i. 3alaikum sounds pretty much like allay+koom. So if you remember it as salami allay koom, everyone will know what you mean. If you remember to drop the final i from salami, and make it salaam-oo instead, you get a gold star.

2: Wa 3alaikum as-salaam. Almost the same as above, just rearranged. The first sound is like the beginning of What, and is exactly like what authors represent as "Wha--?" Wha allay koom salam.

3, 4, 11, and 17: Labas. The first syllable is like lob, as in "Wow, she really lobbed that ball across the net!" or the first syllable of lobotamy. The second rhymes with the Spanish word mas (more), and has a soft ahh sound followed by a soft sss. Lob ah ss.

5, 6, 12, 13: Bixir. Bi- as in "big" or "bitter". The x represents the back-of-the-throat sound you hear in words like the Scottish "loch" or the composer Bach or the German "nacht". It sounds kind of like radio hiss to me. -ir sounds exactly like ear. Rhymes with year. Bi ccchhh ear.

7, 14: Kulshi bixir. The second word is the same as above. The first sounds exactly like cool followed she. Cool she bi ccchhh ear.

8, 15, 16, 17, 18: Lhumdullah. This is pronounced differently in different regions, so you get a lot of latitude. :) Most commonly, it sounds like you're saying the short French word le, an almost invisible syllable, followed immediately by hum, as in "Will you stop humming already?" Then do, as in "Do as I say, not as I do," then a prolonged llll, and a final ah. Alternatively, you can put together the words duel or dual with la (as in, Do re mi fa so la ti do), and it'll sound pretty perfect. L hum duel la.

10: Aud shm/shi? Aud actually means repeat, but it's commonly used to mean how about you? It sounds like the second half of aloud or the first half of Audi. Shm is like the first syllable of shimmer, and shi is indistinguishable from she.

10 cont: Is labas ghorm/ghorsh? Is has a soft s, and rhymes with kiss. Labas we've already gone over. Ghorm involves gargling deep in your throat, and is close to the French r (that weird sound that makes Louvre almost impossible to pronounce for Americans). If you just say horum (rhymes with quorum and forum), people will probably understand you. rghrghrgh orum. That's if you're addressing a woman, as I usually am if I'm going through the whole greeting ritual. The suffix changes from -m to -k if you're addressing a man, and of course, here in Berberville, k's and sh's are interchangeable, so you'd say rghr oruk or rghr orush. Yeah, Tam is fun. :)

16: Lhumdullah. Aud familia? Is labas ghors? The only new words here are familia, which comes from Spanish and French and therefore sounds pretty much exactly how it looks: fam-ee-lee-uh, and ghors, which starts just like ghorm and ghorsh above but ends with a soft s. It rhymes with force.

So there you go. All the pieces you need to fully and properly greet someone in the Classical Arabic/Tamazight/Darija blend spoken here in Berberville.

So, you're ready to come visit! Marhaba! (You are welcome / Come on in / Help yourself / What's mine is yours / I'm glad you're here / etc)

1 comment:

  1. I think that visitors to Morocco can be reasonably successful without knowing *all* of steps 1-18. Most Moroccans I met (when I visited some PCV friends last week) were happy and surprised to be greeted with steps 1-4 (plus lhumdullah, of course) rather than the simple "bonjour" that they usually get from foreigners.



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