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9/7/10 On dwindling Arabic

A moment ago, I sneezed and an acquaintance who happened to be passing by said, "Gesundheit."

I thanked him, and then murmured to myself, "Rhummikallah...humdullah."

Which are, of course, the Arabic phrases for sneezes.

I'm not even sure of the literal translation of the first one, because people only ever use it after someone sneezes. It would be like a Martian visiting America and concluding that "God bless you" means "Oh, hey, you sneezed."

Rhummikallah what somebody else should say when you sneeze. You, post-sneeze, should say humdullah, to express your gratitude for ... I don't know, still being alive or something.

(I didn't say I actually *understood* the God-phrases, I just know how and when to *use* them.)

On the whole, though, moments of involuntary Arabic have steadily dwindled.

Last night, half asleep and on the phone, I murmured, "Mashi mushkil" when I meant "It's all good." They mean the same thing, and in my somnolence, the wrong one floated to my lips.

But other than those - the sneezes and the sleepies - I don't think I've spoken Arabic (let alone Tamazight) in a few days. Well, OK, last night at dinner I was telling a friend about some Moroccan history, and referred to the Amazighn and their language Tamazight. Which gave me a chance to roll my throat a little, which it likes.

Who knew I would miss the physical experience of speaking my crazy language?? The tongue rolls and throat rolls and throat flexures and such things that simply aren't used when speaking English.

Yesterday, I said, "Guten nacht" (and yes, it fit in the context of the conversation, but it would take too long to explain how), and realized that for the first time in a lifetime of (very sporadic) attempts, I can say it correctly. I had a sudden impulse to start singing "Silent night" in German, just so I could keep using that ch-ch-ch sound.

I can't wait to start wishing people Happy Channukah. Maybe I'll start baking challah and offering it to friends at work.

Maybe it's time to find an Arabic class around here after all.

1 comment:

  1. Why have you stopped writing????
    Your story so resonated with me.
    I want to read more.


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