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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Saturday, March 12, 2005  
    A Lebanese-Australian I know went to the opposition protests in Beirut.
    His Arabic not being perfect, he accidentally fluffed one of the chants and ended up chanting something that meant the exact opposite (pro-Syrian).
    Fearing a saboteur, members of the crowd grabbed him and asked him who he was, who sent him and for what purpose.
    He explained – telling them that it was a language mistake and that he was with them.
    They told him that seeing he was with them, he should stay with them for a while longer and detained him briefly until they could establish that he was fair dinkum.

    Another Lebanese-Australian I know, visiting Lebanon a couple of years ago, went to a patisserie and selected a cake.
    The shop assistant asked her to then proceed to the register – “el sandook”.
    Sandook in Arabic means box, so, unfamiliar with the colloquial use of the word, she thought that he was asking her if she wanted the cake put in a box and told him that it was such a small cake and that it didn’t need a box.
    Whereupon he repeated the same request, she repeated her protestations, he repeated the request (not altering it in anyway to make it more understood) ad infinitum.And they probably would still have been there toing and froing now had not another Lebanese expat who was in the shop at the time stepped in and sorted it out.

    While we’re at it, the Arabic word for chicken sounds a lot like the word for soldier to the unfamiliar ear, so an American friend of mine once inadvertently called some Lebanese army soldiers at a checkpoint chickens.

    Another Lebanese expat I know once asked a shopkeeper if the shoes she was buying came with insurance rather than insoles (the two sound somewhat similar in Arabic) and insisted that they do until the misunderstanding was finally cleared up.

    My friend’s mother, who immigrated to Australia from Italy, told me that in her early days in Australia, before she’d learnt English, she was perplexed by all the signs in shops advertising salt (sale meaning salt in Italian).

    Another lady I know, also an immigrant to Australia, asked for a ‘’crap’’ at a restaurant rather than a crêpe.

    My aunty knew a Chinese immigrant to Australia who when invited to a social gathering and asked to ‘’bring a plate’’ (of something) thought she’d do even better and brought along a whole set of new plates that she’d bought especially for the occasion.

    A kid at my high school told his English-illiterate immigrant parents that a detention form that they had to sign was in fact a note attesting that he was ‘’a good boy’’.

    My two young cousins have given up something for Lent.
    Their older brother hasn’t, although his sister has suggested he give up dobbing for Lent (something she thinks he does way too much of).
    The middle one even told me a fasting joke that is so silly that it’s funny – this boy gave up Pepsi for Lent, so he’s drinking Coke.
    A friend of mine is doing the traditional midnight to midday fast.If you think that’s tough, spare a though for the Orthodox who fast an extra ten days on top of the standard forty days (I don’t know why – maybe it’s some sort of bonus).

    12:30 am

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