I recently purchased a copy of “Popular Proverbs: An entrance to Palestinian Culture” by Nasser M. Isleem and have found it to be an extremely valuable resource for my study of the Palestinian dialect. As any Arabic instructor or native Arabic speaker will tell you, mastering the ability to seamlessly and appropriately weave proverbs into your Arabic conversations goes a long way in enhancing your interactions and displaying your proficiency. I’ve selected three unique proverbs from the book and included their translations and a bit of analysis below.
Piece of Cake
شُربة ميّ – Shurbit mayy
This expression is the Arabic version of saying ‘piece of cake’ when you want to describe how easily something was done. As with most Arabic expressions, the words that compose this idiom do not work as direct translations.
شُربة – Shurbit is ‘a sip of’ and ميّ is ‘water’, so this expression literally translates as ‘A sip of water’.
Keep it on the Down Low
خلي الطابق مستور – Khalli iTaabiq mastuur
Literally translating as ‘keep the issue hidden’, this expression is used to tell someone not to discuss an issue or more commonly used in today’s slang as ‘keep it on the down low’.
خلي – Khalli is to ‘keep something, make something stay’, الطابق – iTaabiq here means an ‘issue’ or ‘matter’, but literally translates as ‘floor’ or ‘story’, and مستور – mastuur means ‘hidden’.
Without a Hitch
الحبل ع الجّرّار – il-Habil aj-jar-raar
This expression is the equivalent of the English ‘without a hitch’ and is used in similar contexts to convey when something goes smoothly and without any problems. The Arabic translates as ‘something is still being dragged’.
الحبل – il-Habil is ‘the rope’ and الجّرّار – aj-jar-raar is ‘dragging things behind yourself’