Arabic Urban Dictionary

August 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Hans

Mo3jam is my new favorite site. It’s the Arabic equivalent of the English-language Urban Dictionary and encompasses several dialects (some better represented than others, that’s you Saudi). I read about it via this article from the Abu Dhabi-based paper The National.

After five minutes of browsing, I’ve acquired several useful terms.

  • Usho: Pee in Hijazi.
  • Jibtilee al-Samarga’: You’re driving me crazy in Hijazi.
  • Gorgait: The Bahrain-ized version of Colgate which serves as slang for toothpaste.

I also learned that Gulf Arabs really like to begin their sentences with “Ya Wad!” (Hey man!)

The site only has 900 definitions available but with more awareness I think it could prove a cool resource for both Arabs and Arabic learners. I just hope that more Levantine, North African, Sudanese, and Iraqi speakers will contribute more. Plus, the more terms are added, the more it would allow for greater specification in the dialects, eventually with words becoming as specific as city to city.

The National article includes a quote from the prototypical professor lamenting how the encouragement and recognition of Arabic dialects is leading to an overall deterioration of the Arabic language and how the situation is so dire that we’re going to need dictionaries to understand our neighbors! I’ll never fully understand why professors who purport the Only-Classical-Arabic-All-The-Time theory fail to recognize how diglossic languages don’t represent “fragmentation” or “tribalism”, they represent the adaptability of a language.

But the site is unique in another way. Many social sites geared toward Arabs paradoxically use English as the central language with the Arabic interface being secondary and not offering as many features. Also, Arabs themselves commonly use English as their lingua franca on sites like Twitter and even the Arab-created Watwet.com. Yet Mo3jam (meaning dictionary in Arabic) is an Arabic-dominated site, with all the definitions of the slang terms provided in Arabic. This results in better definitions and useful contextual examples, plus a site that doesn’t exclude non-English speaking Arabs.

The most compelling aspect of the site is that it will encourage a wider discussion on Arabic dialects, which seems to he happening on the group’s Twitter feed . . . in English.

Here’s an article from Lebanese paper al-Akhbar that comes to the obvious conclusion that Arabs, just like the rest of us, are babbling inanely on Twitter.

(Hans Wehr image from here.)

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