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Arabic has given us many common, ordinary words, such as apricot, syrup and chemistry, that do not look particularly Arabic. This week we look at some less-familiar words, from Arabic, that retain a Middle-Eastern flavor.

Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina, in 622 A.D., is called the Hagira, from hajara "to depart". (The Muslim calendar begins in this year, equivalent to our year 1.) Hence:

hagira - an exodus or departure
Some dictionaries define hegira as a flight to escape danger. t is often used this way (see first quote), but "from danger" need not be an element (see second quote, perhaps familiar from a few days ago).
    He [Douglas Sirk] left Germany in 1937 to protect his Jewish wife and, after a difficult hegira, established himself in Hollywood.
    – New Republic, Dec. 5, 2002

    Invited to write and deliver a poem …, [Bret] Harte had showed up late, his poem unfinished. He had tried to wing it with some other verse he'd brought along; the verse was blatantly irrelevant to the occasion, and the press that had kept track of his great eastward hegira several weeks earlier pronounced him "A Fizzle."
    – Ron Powers, Mark Twain: A Life
 
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loofah – a scratchy bath-sponge, made from the fibrous insides of the fruit of the loofah plant (seems to be rather popular nowadays)
[from lufah, the name of the plant in Egyptian Arabic (botanical name Luffa ægyptiaca)]
    Sloughing off dead skin with a loofah or exfoliating shower gel allows a self-tanner to work on fresh, new skin. Your tan will look more even and will last longer.
    – MSNBC, May 25, 2007

    The loofah's abrasive texture tones your skin, stimulates healthy circulation and leaves your skin soft and smooth with a rosy glow.
    – Greeley (CO) Daily Tribune, Apr. 26, 1976 (advert)

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With apricot, Arabic is only one stage in the development. The word comes into English from Spanish albaricoque, from Arabic albarqūq, from Greek berikokkon, from Latin praecoquum, from PIE *pekʷ-, *kʷekʷ-. It's cognate with cook, precocious, and of course pukka.

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Today's word comes from Arabic through Turkish. Its cognates in Arabic include manarat "lighthhouse", manar "candlestick", nar "fire", a rather nice progression.

minaret – a slender tower of a mosque, with a balcony from which a crier (the muezzin) calls Muslims to prayer
    … there is a God, there has always been. I see Him here, in the eyes of the people in this corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him, not the white masjid with its bright diamond lights and minarets.
    – Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Bonus word:
masjid
– a mosque (also musjid)
 
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From the Decemberists song "Constantinople"

quote:
Oh, the minarets of Constantinople
Are plated gold, ivory and opal
Their cupolas all onion-domed and light
 
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giaour - an infidel; a non-Muslim, esp. a Christian
[from Persian "fire-worshipper," originally applied Zoroastrians]

In our thought-provoking first quote, where Zorba recalls his youth, the term is used almost affectionately. But in general it is a term of contempt, as in the other quotes.
    The hodja came to me. 'Listen, young Roumi,' he said to me. 'Come with me.' 'No,' I said. 'Where d'you want to take me to?' 'There's a pasha's daughter whos's like spring water. She's waiting for you in her room. Come, little Roumi!' But I knew that at night they murdered infidels in the Turkish districts. 'No, I'm not coming,' I said. 'Don't you fear God, Giaour?' 'Why should I?' 'Because, little Roumi, he who can sleep with a woman and does not, commits a great sin. My boy, if a woman calls you to share her bed and you don't go, your soul will be destroyed! That woman will sigh before God on judgment day, and that woman's sigh, whoever you may be and whatever your fine deeds, will cast you into Hell!'
    – Nikos Kazantzakisw Zorba the Greek

    You are a usurer and a money-lender. All Armenian swine are usurers and money-lenders. You unclean giaours are responsible for the wretchedness of our people.
    – Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

    The Turks at this day count us no better than of dogs, so they commonly call us giaours, infidels, miscreants, mave that their main quarrel and cause of Christian persecution.
    – Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
Notice that in the last quote Burton equates giaours with 'dogs', in the figrative sense. Is it this that caused Lewis Carroll to think it meant 'dogs' literally?

Carroll did have that misunderstanding, for whatever reason, and it shows up in his famous poem Jabberwocky. In the Alice books, Humpty-Dumpty explains some of the poem's odd words. But when Carroll had privately published the first stanza some years earlier, he had different explanations:
    The first stanza appeared in 1855 in 'Misch-Masch', one of the private handwritten magazines Carroll produced for his brothers and sisters. It was presented in a mock-scholarly way 'as a curious fragment' under the heading of a 'Stanza of Anglo-Saxon poetry' and accompanied by a set of pseudo-philological notes and a 'translation': ... GYRE, verb (derived form GYAOUR or GIAOUR, 'a dog'). To scratch like a dog.
    – Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Penguin Classics edition)

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dura mater – the outermost membrane (of three) enveloping the brain and spinal cord

Latin loan-translation of Arabic umm al-dimagh as-safiqa, "thick mother of the brain." Says Klein, "In Arabic, the words 'father,' 'mother,' and 'son' are often used to denote relationships between things." Wonder if this is where Saddam Hussein got his "Mother of all Wars".

The dura mater is the toughest and the outermost of three such layers. The other two are the the arachnoid mater and the pia mater. The three collecively are called the meninges (singular meninx).
    While common for pituitary tumors, surgical access through the nose is rare for tumors inside the brain because surgeons must go through the dura mater, the tough membrane that covers the brain and contains the cerebrospinal fluid.
    – MaxHealth.com, NC, May 25, 2007
 
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quote:
Carroll did have that misunderstanding, for whatever reason, and it shows up in his famous poem Jabberwocky. In the Alice books, Humpty-Dumpty explains some of the poem's odd words. But when Carroll had privately published the first stanza some years earlier, he had different explanations:

Interesting! I wonder if Bob saw this.
 
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Like yesterday's giaour, today's term is a usually-contemptuous word for "someone not of our kind".

feinghee – a European (term used in India)
[from Old French Franc + Arabic. ethnic suffix -i. Why did the r-sound move so that FRanc became FeRingee? Because the fr- sound is not possible in Arabic.]
    The thing stands thus, sahib, and I tell you this because I know that an oath is binding upon a Feringhee, and that we may trust you. Had you been a lying Hindoo, though you had sworn by all the gods in their false temples, your blood would have been upon the knife and you body in the water.
    – Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four, ch. XII

    I … had the happy idea of presenting one of my own pistols on the spot to the Kahn's son …. He shouted with delight, and his eyes shone as he handled the weapon – I was off to a good start.
    . . .Then once of the courtiers came forward, and I felt a prickle up my spine as I looked at him. … "I can kill parrots with a sling," he said. "Are the feringhee pistols good for anything else?"
    . . .Sher Afzul damned his eyes, more or less, for casting doubt on his fine new weapons, and thrusting one into the fellow's hand, told him to try his luck. And to my amazement, the brute turned straight about, drew a bead on one of the slaves working in the garden, and shot him on the spot.
    – George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman: A Novel
 
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Hindi ferengi, from Persian from Arabic, is a current derogatory term for westerners. It's also apparently where they got the name for the Star Trek race.
 
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kismet – fate; fortune; destiny
[from Arabic qisma, portion, lot, from qasama, to divide, allot]
    On the other hand, maybe it was kismet, running into him like that ... Maybe it was good that he had seen her with another man …
    – Gigi Levangie Grazer, The Starter Wife
 
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A reader sent me the following. Based on it, I question whether feinghee is truly from European Franc (as my sources state) rather than from hingi rang.
    'rang' is colour in hindi/hindustani and phirangi means roughly some one of a different colour literally. it is still used in hindi with a whiff of the pejorative. but it is interesting that europeans (white) were called franks by the turks. iam not sure if rang is of sanskrit origin or it came to hindi by way of arabic. will check on that. the sound is phir not phr which is most def. skt
Fascinating. He said would be checking one further point, and I'm asking him to let us know.
 
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You might ask your friend if "feinghee" could be a local mispronunciation of "foreigner," like farang in Thai.
 
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The Turks at this day count us no better than of dogs, so they commonly call us giaours, infidels, miscreants, mave that their main quarrel and cause of Christian persecution.
– Robert Burton, [i]The Anatomy of Melancholy


just figured i'd take the time and put in my two cents.. the word.. as we "Turks" call it these days.. 'gavur', is really no longer based on religious bases, its more of a word used to describe someone that is not Turkish, a foreigner.. but i can do see some religious backround to it, for we dont call arab's that.. nor do we call anyone that is muslim the word.. but we call anyone that is i guess none musliman.. but i really do believe that at this point the younger generations really, use the word really to describe a foreigner.. that they arent very fond of.. its really not a word devived through hatred, its just a way to point out a foreigner.. im sure back in the old days.. it did have alot more weight to it.. but in these modern times, i dont see it being used in a way that brings hatred.. but rather.. and indifference..
 
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The Hindi word is not Sanskrit, since it contains /f/ which is not a Sanskrit sound. I see no reason to doubt the OED.
 
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The term Frank was used by and for the Crusaders during their many attempts to "reconquor" the Holy Land. The etymology of ferengi is the only one I've seen in dictionaries. Angrezi from English and gora (literally 'white' in Urdu) are other terms one sees, at least, in a South Continental context.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Everyone, please give a big welcome to Pekin, who is a friend and neighbor of mine. His family travelled quite a bit during his growing years - the years in which a person most readily learns a language - and the young Pekin took full linguistic advantage.

Pekin, we have a rule here. Each new member is required to drink one beer for every greeting he receives. Wink
 
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Hi Pekin. If you pop round to shu's house you can ask him for another beer now. I know for a fact that he always has a houseful of great beer.
 
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Hi Pekin!
 
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Hi Pekin!

Have a beer on me as well (or rather on shu).


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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