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Egypt: English Loan Words

Here in Egypt, we usually borrow English words and use them in our Arabic dialect. We also Arabize those words, we make them follow the Arabic grammar, and change their pronunciation – to make them more suitable to us.

Amr El Beleidy, @beleidy, started a Twitter thread asking Egyptian tweeps to gather all those words and discuss how we use them.

@beleidy: I think we should start a hashtag for Some English words and how we use them. I suggest #EgyEnglish

Tarek Shalaby then replied to him. He also – in his tweet – mocked the way we use the words “fun” and “funny.”

@tarekshalaby: Some English words and how we use them: FAANY, enta betetkallem gad walla bet2ool keda just for faany?
@tarekshalaby: Some English words, and how we use them. Funny! Are you serious, or are you just saying this for fun?

Tarek then sent another tweet, to add one more word: “minute.”

@tarekshalaby: MENOT – mat2la2sh, menot we 7atla2eeny 3andak
@tarekshalaby:
Minute – Don't worry, one minute and I'll be right there.

Hisham Sadek was drawn to the idea, and asked to collect all those words into a dictionary.

@sadekhm: LOL guys, we need to make a dictionary for this :D

Yasser Ahmad added a new word: “can,” as in a can of soda. It's interesting that the word “can” in Egyptian Arabic is in the plural, so it's just “cans” even if it is only one can.

@yasserahmad: Canes .. wa7ed Canes law sama7t!
@yasserahmad: Cans .. Give me one cans please.

Nourhan Refaat added three more words in the following tweets. They are “hi,” “cool,” and “game.”

marionnette90: Like we say it millions times a day ‘Hi’ ezaik 3aml eh!
marionnette90: Like we say it millions times a day ‘Hi’ how are you doing!

And here comes the word “cool”:

@marionnette90: Eh daa begd? tb ‘cool’
@marionnette90: Oh really? That's ‘cool’

And then comes “video games”:

@marionnette90: Ana bal3ab ‘game’ dlwty.
@marionnette90: I'm playing a ‘game’ now.

Ziad also added how we sometimes not only use English words, but we also make them follow Arabic grammar. The word “save” here is put in the past tense to become “sayev,” then the letter ‘t’ is added at the end of the word to represent a second-person singular pronoun. Also notice how the word “file” is also used as it is.

@ZiadM: I like it when we make the English word an Arabic. Enta sayevt el file: “Did you save the file”

Hisham Sadek then added two more words–“format” and “setup,” and explained how they are also altered to represent a command. So, “format” here is changed to “farmat” and “setup” is changed to “sattab” to represent the imperative mood. Also notice how the letter ‘p’ at the end of “setup” is changed to ‘b’, as the Arabic language does not have he letter ‘p,’ and many people don't even know how to pronounce it.

@sadekhm: Yalla “Farmat” el hard we “sattab” windows gedeed
@sadekhm: Format the Hard Disk, and setup the new Windows.

Even for a word like “peace,” we created “peacer” and “peacest”, but according to the Arabic grammar, here comes “apyac”. On the face, the word “peace” here is not used as an opposite to war, but it is used as an adjective to define someone who will never mind, or agree with your opinions and deeds. Also the word “touch” is used here to represent an argument or hard feelings.

@tarekshalaby: More Peace – Ana kont fakerhom apyes men keda bekteer, bas te7es enne fee tatsh
@tarekshalaby: More Peace – I thought they were going to be more peaceful than this, but you can still feel that there are hard feelings.

There are also more loan words that we use everyday, such as “ok,” “cafe,” “T-Shirt,” “jacket,” “jeans,” “scarf,” “computer,” “mobile,” and “please.” So, stay tuned to #EgyEnglish to learn more about our Egyptian English.

4 comments

  • Lovely post, Tarek! It’s interesting to see what similarities and differences there are with how other Arabic dialects use English words.

  • Thanks a lot Ayesha, looking forward to know how people in the Gulf use English or French words too.

  • Yes, I’d love to read about how people in the Gulf use English or French words too. It’s really interesting to hear how people incorporate foreign words into different languages.

  • Kasia Otulakowska

    Great post, Tarek! Now it’s getting more clear why learning Arabic is sometimes so confusing ;).
    Also, I love Amr’s idea of #EgyEnglish – an original example of interesting tweeting!
    Just translated your text into Polish – in this new version you can find how we deal with some of English terms in my mother language.

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