Speaking English Like An Arab

Over centuries, dozens of Arabic words have entered the English language, through science, philosophy, mathematics, food, fabrics, trade and travel.

Most were introduced by inland and maritime trade along the Silk Route, while others came through the Islamic conquests of southern Europe. Not all of these words are of Arabic origin – some came from India, Persia and ancient Greece – but Arab merchants helped export them to the West.

Finally, the discovery of medieval Islamic scientists and astronomers during the Renaissance brought new words and concepts to Europe.  I have picked the top 15 most surprising words with Arabic origins.

Admiral: amir أمير

The word for this high-ranking naval commander evolved from amir, the Arabic word for a prince or ruler. The word was first documented on the island of Sicily in the 11th century, where the Arabs had ruled for 300 years.

Alchemy: al kimiya الكيمياء

The ancient branch of philosophy known as alchemy involved the study of substances and materials. Medieval alchemists believed that some liquids could be turned to gold, or a potion that would make its drinker immortal. The original Arabic word stems from the Greek term “khemeia, though some scholars also trace its roots back to ancient Egypt.

Cotton: qutun قطن

Though cotton was known to the ancient Romans, the word and the fabric were imported by Arab merchants to Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Elixir: al-iksir الإكسير

Today, an elixir is a liquid remedy with healing powers. In Arabic, it originally referred to a dry powder for treating wounds. It was later adopted by alchemists who referred to an elixir as the elusive mineral powder that would turn metals into gold.

Jumper: jubba جبّة

The Arabic word for overcoat originally entered European languages as “juppa“, valuable silk clothing, in southern Italy in the 11th century.

Macrame: miqrama مقرمة

This type of knotted textile used in craft and high fashion originates from the hand-loomed fabrics of Arabic weavers. In Arabic, miqrama refers to an embroidered tapestry or bedspread.

Mohair: al-mokhayyar المخيّر

In Arabic, al-mokhayyar was a high-quality cloth made of fine goat hair. Various forms of it were imported to the West for centuries, the most famous being the wool made from Angora goats of Turkey.

Monsoon: mawsim موسم

Early Arab sea merchants on the Indian Ocean rim used the word “mawsim” or “seasons” to refer to the seasonal sailing winds. Later, the word was adopted by Portuguese, Dutch and English sailors as they navigated extreme weather conditions off the coasts of India, South-East Asia and China.

Muslin: musuliyin موصلي

Muslin, a cotton-based fabric, is said to have derived its name from the traders of the city of Mosul, or the musuliyin, who imported it from South Asia to Europe.

Nadir: nazir نظير

In English, a nadir refers to the worst moment, or the point at which something is of the least value. But in Arabic, the word means a counterpart, and was used in medieval Islamic astronomy to refer to the diametrically opposing points of a celestial sphere.

Orange: naranj نارنج

Though both the fruit and the word came from India, Arabs introduced oranges to the Mediterranean region. For many southern European countries today, they are considered a staple fruit.

Serendipity: serendib سرنديب

The ancient fairy tale place of Serendib, which appears in One Thousand and One Nights and other ancient oral traditions, was also the old Arabic name for the island of Sri Lanka. The English word serendipity, meaning a fortunate discovery, was coined by the English author Horace Walpole in 1754.

Safari: safar سفر

The English adopted the Swahili word for journey – safari – in the 19th century for their hunting expeditions in East Africa. Though a safari today involves an organized trip to spot wild animals, its origins are from the Arabic “safar”, or journey, a reminder of the crucial presence of Arab sea merchants on the East African coast.

Sugar: sukkar سكّر

Another word to have travelled the Silk Road is sugar, which was originally produced in India. By the sixth century, sugar cane cultivation reached Persia, and was brought into the Mediterranean by the Arabs, who produced it extensively.

Tariff: ta’riff تعريف

A tariff in Medieval Arabic means a notification. It was introduced to western languages around the 14th century through commerce on the Mediterranean Sea, where it referred to the bill of lading on a merchant ship, or the statement of products and prices for sale.

Book Review #27

Through no fault of my own, I managed to read another book which is older than me.  It is over four decades older, though to categorize it as a book, is perhaps generous.  It was only 68 pages, a couple of them being photos from a trip.  It is said to be the first English-language book produced in this German-speaking town.  I did not acquire it just to tick off a reading challenge sector.

The book:  A Canadian’s Travels In Egypt

The author:  Ward H. Bowlby K.C.

The review:  If you Googled ‘Vanity Press,’ there would be a picture of this ego trip about an Egyptian trip.  A local historian publishes a weekly newspaper column.  He mentioned that he had a pdf file of a carefully-scanned 1902 original.  He would forward a copy to anyone who asked – so I asked.

Ward Bowlby was a big noise here in then-Berlin, Ontario, at the end of the 19th century.  He had attended Ontario Law College in Toronto, being first in his class each year.  He came from a well-to-do family.  Besides generous fees, paid by other local captains of industry, he owned a large timber/lumber company during a significant period of city growth.

In the winter of 1898/99, he felt that he had earned a little vacation.  This was not your average on-the-cheap tourist-class jaunt.  Ward, and 8 of his family and friends, took a four month getaway from a cold, Canadian winter, including two months on a Nile houseboat.

They went by train from Berlin to New York City, and boarded a steamer.  Over 11 days, they visited Gibraltar, Pompeii, and Naples.  Then they transferred to an Italian steamer for a trip to Alexandria.  After eight days in Cairo, which included a visit by the two men in the party to an ‘Arab music hall,’ where they were suitably scandalized by half-naked belly-dancers, they chartered a Nile tour-boat.

They got as far upstream as Aswan (Assouan), and then returned, visiting village markets, Luxor tombs, the Sphinx, and the Great Pyramids.  Bowlby kept a daily diary of the Egyptian portion, later turning it into a published travelogue.  After Egypt, the party spent 10 days in ‘The Holy Land’ – Palestine, long before the (re)creation of Israel.  Sadly, Bowlby kept no notes about that segment of the trip.

He had 56 copies printed, and bound with leather with gilt lettering.  He autographed each copy, and gave them to people he wanted to impress.  I don’t know how common these travelogues were at that time.  This one has the feel of the quiet bombast of, This is something that I could afford to do, and you can’t.  The K. C. behind his name, above, indicates, not merely a lawyer, but King’s Counsel.  He suffixed each autograph with ‘Esq.’

The manuscript itself was as tedious as the year-end newsletter you might receive from any bragging almost-friend.  The basic story though, was like watching the Hercule Poirot movie, Death On The Nile, an interesting historical glimpse into the period actions of some monied Canadians.

Flash Fiction #278

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

WRITTEN IN STONE

We’re getting a new city hall??!  This is the third in fifty years!  Another monument to bureaucracy??!  😯

Drug addicts and paraphernalia litter the streets.  Guys sleep in alleys and on vents.  The police force, social services, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, abused women’s homes and food-banks are underfunded and overwhelmed.  Still, council budgeted $24 million, most of it siphoned from the capital contingency account.

This will be a glorious legacy project to exalt outgoing, long-time mayor Priapus Swaggart.  He must really know where the bodies are buried.  The drunks will appreciate a new, warm lobby to sleep it off in.

***

If you’d like to join the Friday Fictioneers fun, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

’21 A To Z Challenge – F


 

There is no “English Language!”

I tried to explain this to a reader, recently.  I don’t think that he understood – or believed me.  Every word in the English language came from somewhere else.  Some are just more obvious than others.  Take, for example, the word

FRANGIPANI

A flower of the tropical American tree or shrub, Plumeria rubra, of the dogbane family
The tree or shrub itself
A perfume prepared from or imitating the odor of the flower

The word is in every English dictionary – yet it is obviously Italian.   It entered the language circa 1860 – 65 from French, who spelled it frangipane – after Marquis Muzio Frangipani, a 16th-century Italian nobleman, the supposed inventor of the perfume.

The true, original meaning of the Signor Frangipani’s name is bread-breaker, as in, to break bread with others, a banquet-giver, a host, or merely, a good travelling companion – another Latin-based word which indicates togetherness, and bread.

Google’s translation department would have you believe that the word means bread-crusher – a totally different concept.

Stop back again in a couple of days, after you’ve had a sandwich that you tried to make by putting cold butter on fresh bread.  I’m going to try for a scratch-and-sniff post using Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop “This Candle Smells Like My Vagina.”   😯

goop x Heretic This Smells Like My Vagina Candle | Goop

Get A Grip

I have a gripe with English.  It is said that a man with a watch always knows what time it is.  A man with two watches is never sure.  For a word with one meaning, or even several established meanings, I know what is meant.  For words which keep adding, subtracting, and modifying meanings, I am less and less sure what is meant.

The word ‘grip’ originally meant, a grasp, a grab, a hold, by a person’s hand.  Recently, technology has included machines.  Once upon an archaic, the words ‘grip’ and ‘gripe’ meant the same thing.  (Don’t ask me why.  I can’t get a hold on it.)  Now grip can mean a small suitcase with a handle, which can be grasped and carried by one hand.  Gripe can be a nagging complaint by someone who may not have a firm grip on reality.

At one time, ‘grippe’, which is pronounced grip, but which is neither grip nor gripe, was the word to identify influenza, the ordinary, seasonal, gastro-intestinal flu,’ a kinder, gentler, distant relative to COVID.  “Grippe” could cause abdominal cramps, especially among babies and young children.

To alleviate these symptoms, “Grippe Water” was developed and marketed.  My mother dosed me with it several times.  The original formula contained alcohol and sugar in addition to sodium bicarbonate and dill oil – a couple of stomach calmers, some calories to replace what might have been lost to the illness, and a mild sedative to aid with sleeping.  It was once said that the best remedy for a colicky baby, was a good, thick, oak door.

Then the All-Or-Nothing, Save Us From Ourselves, Snowflakes got a grip on it, and removed all the “bad” ingredients, so present-day products do not contain alcohol or sugar, but may contain fennel, ginger, chamomile, cardamom, licorice, cinnamon, clove, dill, lemon balm or peppermint, depending on the formula.

Grippe’ was what caused the cramping, but ‘gripe’ is the term for the actual clutching, grasping intestinal pain.  Since the formula was changed, the name has also been changed.  ‘Grippe Water’ is no more, and the new product is ‘Gripe Water.’  That’s only one of the English terms that I have a gripe about.  😯

Flash Fiction #249

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

RELATIVE RELATIVES

Hi Daddy!  When are ya comin’ home??

My business deal’s almost finished.  I’ll be home on Friday.  Anything interesting happen?

The roses died.

Oh…. why?

The heat from the fire.

Fire??!  What fire?

When the garage burned.

The garage burned!!? How?

The firemen said that it was sparks from the house that set it on fire.

The house was on fire!??  What happened?

Mommy says that it happened when the furnace exploded.

Furnace exploded!??  Was anybody injured?

No Daddy, but we’re gonna hafta get some new roses when we get out of this motel.

MOTEL!!??

Here’s Mommy.  She can ‘splain.  😳

***

Aah – the innocence of childhood.  Everybody’s got their own priorities.  Daddy’s may be home-owners’ insurance.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

’20 A To Z Challenge – Q

My mind grinds fine, but exceeding slow.

The lesson for today is taken from the Second Book of Archon, Chapter II: Verse 6.  Words beginning with the letter Q, while a bit more plentiful than those with X, Y, or Z, are not thick on the ground.  The word of the day is

QUERN

a primitive, hand-operated mill for grinding grain.

The first time the wife and I went to Charleston, SC, we continued on past to visit the Middleton Plantation.  Yankee troops burned the original mansion down.  All that remains are the stone and concrete veranda, and the slaves’ quarters at one end.  These now comprise a small museum, and the living quarters of the current owners.

Still, the building is larger than many homes in upscale, gated communities.  I can only imagine how grand and epic the original structure must have been.  Included in the museum are three Faberge eggs – one complete, and two missing their internal hidden treasures.

The plantation sits beside a long stretch of slow, shallow, river.  The biggest cash crop was rice, but, up on the flats, cotton was grown as well, along with fruits and vegetables for sale, and to feed the residents.

Huge amounts of corn flour and corn meal were required to supply annual dietary needs.  The river could not be used to drive a mill, so dried corn was fed into small hand mills – querns – and ground down.  Adult and adolescent slaves were needed for other plantation tasks.  This job usually fell to Negro tweens.  A hardwood dowel handle was inserted into the upper mill half, and children spent ten or twelve hours a day – alternating arms, turning and turning and turning….

Not to downplay the evils of slave ownership, but poor white folks – and free Negroes in the North – used to face mind-numbing, and body breaking, drudgery to keep themselves alive and fed.  The modern motorized technology has replaced most of these types of onerous tasks, but has made many first-world citizens physically soft and weak.  To achieve what honest labor used to provide, it has been replaced by ‘The Gym.’  Run 5K on a treadmill – but don’t actually get anywhere.   😯

Stop Watching

A guy told me that you burn as many calories making love, as you do running 5 miles.
He’s a moron.  Who runs 5 miles in 30 seconds?

***

Doctor; (handing me the baby) I’m sorry.  Your wife didn’t make it.
Me; (handing the baby back) Then bring me the one my wife made.

***

You can’t truly refer to yourself as an adult, until you catching yourself getting mad because the grocery store changed its layout.

***

My Tinder bio says that I have a corner office, with a view of the city.  I drive a $200,000 vehicle, and my company pays me to travel.

My dates seem disappointed to find that I am a bus driver.

***

Did you hear about the circle who graduated from university?
He had 360 degrees.

***

Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl using the bathroom?
Because the ‘P’ is silent

***

I was at the post office, when I saw a blonde woman holding an envelope open, and shouting into it.
I said, “What are you doing?”
She replied, “Sending a voice mail.”

***

Eight-year-old Nina brought her report card home from school. Her marks were good…mostly A’s and a couple of B’s.

However, her teacher had written across the bottom: “Nina is a smart little girl, but she has one fault. She talks too much in school. I have an idea I am going to try, which I think may break her of the habit.”

Nina’s dad signed her report card, putting a note on the back:  “Please let me know if your idea works on Nina because I would like to try it out on her mother.”

***

One morning I was called to pick up my son at the school nurse’s office.

When I walked through the main entrance, I noticed a woman, curlers in her hair, wearing pajamas. “Why are you dressed like that?” I asked her.

“I told my son,” she explained, “that if he ever did anything to embarrass me, I would embarrass him back. He was caught cutting school. So now I’ve come to spend the day with him!”

***

Paddy pulls up to the traffic light, right next to a stunning-looking girl.  He smiles, and rolls his window down.  She smiles back and rolls her window down also.  Paddy says, ‘Have you farted, as well?’

***

Pat:  I tried to sue the airline for losing my luggage.
Mike:  What happened?
Pat:  I lost the case.

***

A duck stood next to a busy road, waiting for a break in traffic
A chicken walked up to him and said, ‘Don’t do it man.  You’ll never hear the end of it.’

***

Joe:  My friend Al went bald years ago, but he still carries a comb around with him.
Pete:  Why does he do that?
Joe:  He just can’t seem to part with it.

***

I’m not saying, let’s go out and kill all the stupid people.  I’m just saying, let’s remove all the warning labels, and let the problem sort itself out.

***

Sometimes you just gotta sit back, grab a drink, and face the fact that people are idiots.

Flash Fiction #236

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

FAIR TRADE

How do you get down off an elephant?
You don’t!  You get down off a duck.

I got a dog for my wife.
Seems like a good swap.

I saw a sign that said, Watch For Children.
I thought, that’s a fair trade.

Maybe I could get the Traders to exchange some new jokes for these old ones.  I would trade two weeks of COVID isolation for a fortnight visit to Wilmington, NC, to see how it took 75 years for Southerners to trade their insecure, racist bigotry, for acceptance, and peaceful coexistence.  It’s still not perfect, but it’s better.

***

Join the merry band of Friday Fictioneers.  Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple https://rochellewisoff.com/ site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

30 Day Challenge – Twofer

9: Your Last Kiss
11: Your current relationship, if single, discuss how single life is

I put these two together, because I’m not really going to write about either, yet they kinda go together.

The wife and I are now closing in on 53 years of marriage, but I’m sure that there are readers who would be surprised to find that there is not an abundance of “Love.”  For much of history, and much of the world, marriage was a socio-commercial undertaking.  Even today, ‘arranged marriages’ are common, and their divorce rates are lower than the ‘marriage for love’ ones.  They are based on mutual respect and adaptation.

I’m assuming that the author meant a passionate, ‘love-induced’ kiss, not the How Are You peck on the cheek from a sister-in-law.  At the three-quarters of a century mark, there’s not a lot of passion left.  The son says that he gets strange looks from co-workers when he tells them that we are each just hanging on until the other dies – dark humor, that boy.

Hoggimus-Higgimus
Man is polygamous
Higgimus-Hoggimus
Woman’s monogamous
It is said that a man will trade love for sex, and a woman will trade sex for love.  The wife and I have learned to respect each other, and there certainly has been a great deal of adaptation over the years.  There was a certain degree of love to get the marriage started, but…. 

A man chases a woman – until she catches him.  I came home one day from work, to find that the coffee klatch at my house had not disbanded.  I heard the wife telling the neighborhood women that she picked me, because she felt that I was very intelligent, and she thought that smart men made more money.  Oh, you sexy minx!  You had me at ‘Credit Check.’  I am the victim of an arranged marriage.  It was just my wife who arranged it.

I am not displeased or disappointed with my married life.  Only occasionally do I wonder how things would have gone in other circumstances.  One of my online friends has been divorced and living alone for 30 years.  I don’t have the self-sufficiency to live alone.  I need a zoo-keeper to care for and feed me.  As a mild sociopath, I could probably handle the isolation, but I still value the social and intellectual stimulation from my children, and now grandson and granddaughter-in-law.

There have been few periods in our marriage that could be described as brilliant fireworks.  That’s probably a good thing.  Slow and steady wins the race.  I have seen those whose lives, including their marriage, have been roller-coaster ups and downs.  Eventually the downs seem to be such a contrast, that they decide to give up and change them.  Divorce is survivable.  Suicide is not.

Our marriage has not been boring.  We have been able to travel a bit, and see and experience some interesting places and things.  Now that we are (much) older, and the bodies and the bank account are weak and creaky, we are learning to use our electronics for entertainment and social connections – like this.

Thanx for stopping by to read this unexciting description of Same Old – Same Older.  I’ll haul out more interesting info for next time.  Wanna hear about the neighbor who’s a drug dealer?

***

I’m still (reluctantly) getting used to this damned Block Editor. I’ve figured out most of it but, can someone tell me where to find the control for color of text??