Yesterday I attended at el Kotob Khan a presentation and discussion about the rise and fall of the arab civilization. It was an event organized by PTP. Dr. Qassem Abdo Qassem was a remarkable guest speaker.
Camel gave us an introduction on the arab culture in general, then Dr. Qassem takled for a while about the growth of the Islamic civilization and its decadence, then we had a time for questions.
One of the things that I was thinking about was about the language.
There was a time when Arabic was the dominant language of science, philosophy, literature,,, etc. If any scholar wanted to further his knowledge in any field, he’d have to learn Arabic in order to ensure his exposure to a wider range of resources, and if he wrote anything, he’d write it in Arabic to ensure a wider audience. Even El Ghazali wrote most of his works in Arabic, except for only two which he wrote in Persian.
So my point is, definitely there is an crucial relation between the use of the language and the rise and fall of its civilization. So when I write a story or thoughts in my blog in English, am I unintentionally weakening my civilization?!
Anyway, here is a nice collection of Arabic loanwords in English (From Wikipedia), there are other pages for the Arabic influence on other languages (like French and Spanish)…Some words are just so close, I can’t imagine how I didn’t notice them before!
admiral: أميرالبحار, amīr al-bihār commander of the seas
adobe : الطوب at-tūb, the bricks
barrio : barriya, open country, from barr ‘outside’ (of the city).
hazard: الزهر az-zahr, chance, name of the pieces used in the game of ‘nard,’ or ‘tawola.’
jar : جرة jarrah, large earthen
magazine : maxāzin, (or makhāzin), storehouses
sherbet, sorbet, shrub, syrup : شراب sharāb, a drink
I was just discussing with some friends who are well acquinted with the ancient Egyptian language, we were talking about the words we use in the colloquial Egyptian Arabic that have no origin in the Arabic language. Here are some examples:
Bekh بخ : the word we use to frighten others, it actually means عفريت / ghost in anc
kani wi mani كاني و ماني: we use in the meaning that the person says nonesense, actually means سمن و عسل /
Maarafsh معرفش: “I don’t know”, when we say this word, we turn our palms upward, and the shoulders are shrugged a bit. This body language was drawn! And it was pronounced “khom” خم, another word we use when someone talks about something he doesn’t know, or when he tricks another person.
I also heard that some of the words we say to little kids, like تاتا (tata) when he starts walking, or امبو (embou) when he drinks, these are also ancient words!
This is another side of the impact of the language on the daily life of people. We are using words without knowing their real meanings and origins. Just like history. I may not be aware of historical events and wars (for example el Ayubids, the mamluks times,,,) but definitely it left its marks in our consciousness.