Fish, Milk, Tamarind: A Book of Egyptian Arabic Food Expressions
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“Zayyis skkiiina fil Halaawa,” means “like a knife through halva,” or smooth and easy. It’s just one of more than 100 food-related idioms in Egyptian Arabic presented in this playfully illustrated book which highlights both similarities and differences between that language and English.
Some expressions seem to have close relatives in English. “Fuula wit’asamit nuSSeen,” means “a broad bean split in two,” very similar to to “two peas in a pod.”
Others, such as “mukjkhu mhallabiyya,” or “his brain is milk pudding,” have obvious connotations: the poor guy is simpleminded.
But as with many idioms in many languages, others are unpredictable, the origins of their references unclear although the images they conjure are memorable. Fil mishmish, or “in the apricots,” means something will never happen. The illustrations by Farah Shafie help underscore many of the more unusual idioms.
Author Dalal Abo El Seoud teaches Arabic at the American University in Cairo; she includes a helpful guide to pronouncing words transcribed from Arabic, including sounds which are not typically found in English.
An amusing window into everyday life and attitudes.
Hardcover. Color illustrations.