Friday, December 24, 2004

Bahraini proverbs

I have to say, Bahraini proverbs/clichés/sayings/idioms (I will use these terms interchangeably, whats the difference, someone please elaborate?!? ) have to be the funniest around, compared to English ones anyway. I can't compare across all languages, but being familiar with other Arabic dialects, Egyptian, Syrian, Saudi etc, Bahraini clichés have me in stitches . I thought I’d start by listing a few of them here, since i'm no expert, I called on my mother for some input on this. Now my mother having been trained at the hands of my grandmother, who is the doyenne of Bahraini proverbs (i'm sure she even makes some up!!), this list kept getting longer and longer. This will be hard, but I won't attempt to translate them all, as it loses the gist and jive completely, especially the rhyme. For example , we have a saying "a monkey in his mother’s eye is a gazelle" which has the same meaning as my great-aunt’s favourite saying ‘reegik fi boozik 7ilo’, ie ‘your saliva tastes nice in your own mouth’, implying you always think one of your own is better than anybody else. Now obviously, you need to put these sayings/clichés in a cultural, historical context to fully understand their meaning and see the humour in them. But believe me, I was cracking up in laughter as I was typing this post. I’m so impressed at this ‘art’ of saying meaningful things in such a blunt and banal way, that I sometimes jot them down in my diary whenever I hear a particularly funny one. My favourite one is صبري يا حريقة سار الى ان يجيش الماي من لحنينية : oh fire in Saar, you're going to have to wait for the water to come from hininiya. In the old days, the only way to put out fires was to get water from a water well in hinaniya, so if there was a fire in Saar (pretty far), it took a long time to get the water there. So this is where this saying comes from, which you use whenever anyone is late or when things take ages to get done. Im not exaggerating, the following sayings are so common that not a conversation passes without hearing at least one or two of them.

عين عداري تسقي البعيد و تنسى القريب
تعالوا واسمعوا يأهل السنابس تتن ماميش والفنجان يابس
ما لك غير خشمك لو كان عوج - All you have is your nose, even if it’s a bent one
ما يترس عين أبن آدم إلا التراب
حشر مع الناس عيد
من سبق لبق
ذنب الجلب ما ينعدل - You can’t straighten a dogs tail
اللي عمره ما تبخر..تبخر و احترق
ريجك في بوزك حلو
الناس في زلزلة و المرأه تدور رجل -The world is in chaos, and the woman is looking for a partner
الاعور على العميان باشا
السبال بعين امة غزال
هدا الباب على هدا الخرابة
اللي يبي الدح ما يقول أح
اللي مايطول العنب ,حامض عنه يقول- Whoever doesn’t reach the grapes, he say’s they’re sour: ie making up lies
علمناهم على الطراره سبقونا على البــــيبان- We taught them how to beg, then they beat us to the doorways
الطول طول النخلة والعقل عقل صخلة
وين ادنك يا جحى قال هني
الي في الجدر يطلعه الملاس-Whats in the pan the spoon will dig out: as in time will reveal the truth
مد رجولك على قد لحافك-Stretch your legs as far as your blanket: as in don’t spend more than you have
ما يعرف كوعه من بوعه
صام صام وفطر على بصلة -Fasting the whole day, then break the fast on an onion
طرار ويتشرط -Bahraini version of beggars can’t be choosers
يحسدون الميت على موتة الجمعة - They envy the deadman for dying on a Friday
ما يحك ظهرك إلا ظفرك - Nothing scratches your back better than your own fingernail
يا خبر اليوم بفلوس بكره ببلاش
اللي يجي بلا عزيمة يطلع بلاحشيمة
أن لم تكن ذئباً أكلتك الدئاب
اللي يبي الصلاة ماتفوته
ادا طاح الجمل كثرة سجاجينه
إذا غاب القطو إلعب يافار
تطلع عليك اغلى من بيع السوق
الزين زين لو قعد من النوم والشين شين لو كحل عيونه
من سنة الدبس
بغيناك عون صرت فرعون
من فوق هالله هالله ومن تحت يعلم الله
ما يعجبه العجب ولا الصوم في رجب
طارت الطيور بارزاقها
لافات الفوت ماينفع الصوت
عادت حليمة لعادتها القديمة
اسأل مجرب لا تسأل طبيب
روح بعيد وارجع سالم
كلمن ينظر للناس بعين طبعه
على هامان يا فرعون
هذا الميدان يا حميدان
بيكحلها عماها
من اعتمد على جاره اصبح ريقه ناشف
ايوب يوم ابتلى قوى العزم بالصبر
عند البطون تعمى العيون
فلان وجهه بليته
ادا نسينا الحمد شنصلي به
احر ما عندي ابرد ما عندك

Oh yes and how can I forget to add 'mish boozuk' (wipe your mouth) the most common saying of all, which means 'don't even think about it'! If anyone wants to have a bash at translating or adding any more proverbs, be my guest!!

Posted by BB @ 12/24/2004 05:09:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment

do you mind if I publish these on

Posted by Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif @ 12/24/2004 09:22:00 PM #

affa 3laik mahmood...publish all you want, 3ayni 3laik barda eyes are cold on you :) see I can't get enough of these sayings..

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 12/24/2004 09:49:00 PM #

Thank You!

Posted by Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif @ 12/24/2004 11:12:00 PM #

The "spoon" one was particularly funny and the "fingernail" one "had me in stitches" (translation: made me laugh so much that I almost burst my sides and required surgical stitches).

Posted by Blogger Adnan Mole @ 12/24/2004 11:20:00 PM #

Haha. I couldn’t stop laughing while reading this post…brings back memories of my good ‘ole grandma. One my personal favorites is
وش ليش بالبحر و اهواله او رزق الله على السيف

Translation: Why endure the sea and its dangers while God’s blessings are on the shore.

That’s what my grandma said when I first left Bahrain to Canada and that’s what she says every time I talk to her on the phone and that’s probably what she’ll continue to say whenever I return to Bahrain for vacation.

Thanks a lot for sharing those proverbs and by the way your blog is fantastic…I should’ve said that earlier since I’ve been enjoy it for a while.


Posted by Blogger global soul @ 12/25/2004 05:54:00 AM #

Good one GS, i like it..

here is a more modern one:

اومرك ولا اوامر الحكومة

"i'd rather take your orders than the government's order"

you say this when someone tells you to do something.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 12/25/2004 05:31:00 PM #

it is so cool to keep these proverbs in your conversations.. and here are some that i learned from old folks that i enjoyed their company..
مع الخيل يا شقرا
صفرية ـ قدر ـ و لقت غطاها
لو فيه خير ما رماه الطير
مرد الجلب .. بيت القصاب you have time for me!فرغت حسنية ن صلاواتها

i have alot of those, hope you have a good laugh from it


Posted by Blogger yawaar @ 12/25/2004 08:02:00 PM #

hi yawaar...

nice proverbs....i didnt get these ones though:

مع الخيل يا شقرا
صفرية ـ قدر ـ و لقت غطاها


there are hundreds more, i only added the commonest of common proverbs...there's gotta be more bahrainis out there that actually read this..?

ok i got one more

على هامان يا فرعون..means gu9 3la '3airi...i got u sussed out try it on someone else..

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 12/26/2004 07:34:00 PM #

These are Gems
Thank you for sharing it!

Keeps me aware of my ancestry ;-)

Posted by Blogger AA @ 12/27/2004 09:26:00 AM #

Aaainalyaa... do u have bahraini ancestors?

I was talking to my mom today and was telling her something I was planning to do.. she said:

برز (جهز) الدواء قبل لا تعطي الفلعة (الكف او شيئ من هذا القبيل... this says " getting the antiseptic ready before you give the punch" as in thinking too far ahead

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 12/29/2004 08:58:00 PM #

...aaah nothin' sounds more witty than those ol' bahraini proverbs ...goodstuff! 

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Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 2/02/2005 02:26:00 PM #
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