Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vowels matter

I had a hilarious memory the other day of one of the stupidest, most ridiculous faux pas I executed while working here in Jordan. It involved a woman whom I often collaborated with at the Ministry of Youth and with whom I was quite close. One day when I was in the Ministry for meetings, I noticed my friend Taroub wasn't around and asked where she was. I was told, "Maat waalid-ha."

I was shocked--her boy had died! Her son, who had been over at my house just a few weeks before, right after he had gotten out of school. Trying to hold back tears, I found out where the gathering would be for the funeral and immediately set about to tell my boss and Rebecca, who was our director at the time.

The next day, we made our way to her family's house to give her our condoleances. As we were sitting there, everyone looking extremely grim and sad (and myself in tears), I couldn't help but think that Taroub was really looking pretty good for someone whose young son had died. I mean, she seemed to be coping, and not completely listless in the way I imagined most bereaved mothers would be. I had been uncertain as to how the boy had died, and we began asking what had happened. After learning about his medical history, we found out that he had had a heart attack. "A heart attack?!' my boss asked. "But he was so young!"

"Yes, only 65," we were told. And that's when I learned that waalid, with a long "a," means "father"--and not "boy" (walid). We left shortly thereafter, laughing hysterically and replaying the scene over and over on the ride back. Taroub's look of surprise when all three of us came calling, our reaction to the "heart attack"response . . .

It was a shame that Taroub had lost her father, but for us, it was a great thing that she still had her lovely little boy.

6 Comments:

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Hamzeh N. said...

I can only imagine what your reaction might have been if the boy himself walked into the room in front of you :D

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous onzlo said...

hahahah

boy is 'walad'

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Dar said...

LOL that was funny , and to a certain limit releiving :)
CheeerZ!

 
At 1:18 AM, Anonymous kinzi said...

I've done this too! My worst funeral faux was accidently saying 'Uqbal 3indkum, insha'allah', but thankfully to someone who kindly and quickly corrected me. Yeesh.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Betqa said...

Very funny! And I totally understand... I've been trying to learn arabic and it's also happened that instead of saying "How are you" I supposedly said "how's your uncle"...

 
At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Jano said...

well, its really funny :)
btw, You and Samer have a nice blogs..
i hope lil Ismael will have the nicest of u in the future :)

 

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