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Seven Arabic words and phrases that simply don't translate into English

Source: PA

In many languages, the meaning behind some words and phrases may get missed when they are translated into English. Here are seven examples from the Arabic language.

Arabic speakers in Australia can sometimes experience difficulty, awkwardness or even funny situations when they attempt to translate some Arabic phrases and expressions into English.

Australia is a multicultural and multilingual country, made up of people from more than 200 nations, who speak just as many languages.

This environment creates a great opportunity for people to discover new cultures and learn new words and phrases, through translation into English.

But it may not be a simple task when someone tries to interpret and translate unique, confusing and sometimes baffling phrases that simply don’t have an appropriate equivalent in English.

Here are some Arabic words and phrases which fit the category of “untranslatable”.

نعيما - Na’eeman 

This phrase is used after a person gets a clean shave or takes a shower.

A friend or family member may say to them “na’eeman” as if they are imparting a blessing on that person by saying, "congratulations on your cleanliness”.

تقبرني - To’oborni

This term is used mostly in Lebanon and literally means "you can bury me".

However, when spoken between friends or loved ones, it can be interpreted as “I love you so much and I would like to die for you” or “you can bury me yourself before I lose you”.

على راسي - Ala rasi

The literal translation of this phrase is "above my head," which is an old saying used when someone asks you for a favour.

To answer “ala rassi” would imply that you “would do anything” for the person asking the favour, and serves as a swift response that the favour will be granted.

بلّط البحر - Balet elbahr

The literal translation is “go and tile the sea”.

The metaphorical meaning contains a challenge and a provocation and is used during a moment of anger or affirmation, such as: “I will do so, and if you do not like it, go and tile the sea.”

بسيطة - Baseeta

Don’t be fooled by this word which literally means “simple” - because It is anything but.

It is used during a disagreement, as a veiled threat which may imply that: “I may unleash my revenge on you when you least expect.”

دم خفيف-دم ثقيل - Dam khafeef/ Ta'qeel

The literal meaning is "light" or "heavy" blood, but can be used to describe someone's personality or behaviour through their blood constitution.

It has nothing to do with positive or negative blood types, nor blood density.

If you bleed and your haemoglobin is a lighter shade of red, you are light-hearted with appealing humour.

On the other hand, if your jokes are annoying, you’re “heavy-blooded” or “unbearable”. 

مرضي عليك - Mardi aalaik

This phrase translates to "satisfy you". In the context of an Arabic family, it means to be blessed by your parents, which is the highest accolade one can receive in many Arab corners.

Once you have secured “ridda”, or the mother's blessing, you sit back and enjoy the warm feeling that she approves of your lifestyle.

Reaching this blessed state of being “mardi” for some is more crucial for happiness and satisfaction than any other thing.

This expression can also be used to describe how well connected someone is.