Author Archives: B-Rad

Beggars have conditions – Arabic Jokes


He heard these two jokes when he was a kid in Jordan. There were many little fruit vendors back then, and there were a lot of beggars back then too.

Joke 1:

“A poor man wants to sell fruits on a cart to make some money. So a beggar came to this guy asking for something from his cart for free. The guy looked at him, and gave him a small watermelon. So the beggar said, ‘The smallest one? I thought you were going to give me a bigger one. You know what, you will teach people to not beg from you.’”

Joke 2:

“A beggar goes to a butcher, and asks for a free piece of meat. The butcher goes and cuts a piece for him. The beggar then responds ‘You’re not going to cook it for me?’”


I found these jokes funny because they switch out the expected expression of gratitude with the opposite: an expression of ingratitude. Because they occupy the space between the expected and unexpected, they get the listeners’ attention, and strike them as funny. Because these jokes sound similar to the English saying “Beggars aren’t choosers,” they could have been used as a build-up to an equivalent saying in Arabic (or just the English saying).

Easter egg game (Maseehh kom) – Arabic Folk Game


She learned this game from her family when she was around two years old, in Egypt. She said that the reason they commemorate Jesus’s resurrection with cracking eggs is because Jesus emerged from the tomb like a chick emerging from an egg.


This game requires two people (P1 and P2), each with a hard-boiled Easter egg.

P1 holds their egg above P2’s egg, and both of the tops are exposed and facing each other. P1 says “Maseehh kom” (“Messiah has risen”), and P2 says “Hakan kom” (“Indeed risen”). P1 then slams their egg’s top into P2’s egg’s top. Whoever’s egg is not broken is the winner of that round.

P2 then holds their egg above P1’s egg, and both of the bottoms are exposed and facing each other. P2 says “Maseehh kom,” and P1 says “Hakan kom.” P2 then slams their egg’s bottom into P1’s egg’s bottom. Whoever’s egg is not broken is the winner of that round.

If there is a tie at the end, they repeat the game with new eggs.

(I added the P1 and P2 distinctions, as well as the translations, to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)


I remember learning this game from my parents when I was a kid, and I think that it is a clever way to celebrate the Resurrection with the prominent tradition of Easter eggs. We would first play it in the household, then again when we would meet with the whole family later that Sunday (pre-COVID). Each time we played it, it was in a tournament style: each person would choose a colored egg from a container full of them, and would face off in brackets. Not only was it a way to remember that “Maseehh kom,” but it was a way to bring the family closer together (very important to Arabs).

For other games associated with Easter eggs, see the following excerpt: Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 80, no. 315, 1967, pp.27-28.

Wishbone game (Yadest) – Arabic Folk Game


She grew up playing it, learning it from her parents and grandparents.


The game requires two people (P1 and P2) and a wishbone. When two people break the wishbone, the one who ends up with the bulb on top (P1) is the default winner. However, the game is not over. The player who did not get the bulb (P2) has to try getting P1 to accept something from their hand. If P1 says “Fi balee” (“In my mind”) when taking the item from P2’s hand, nothing happens. If P1 forgets to say “Fi balee,” and P2 says “Yadest” (“You lose”), then P2 wins. If P2 fails to win by a certain time that they agreed on, P1 wins by default.

(I added the P1 and P2 distinctions, as well as the translations, to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)


Having played this game before, I will say that it is very fun, since P2 has to devise ways to get P1 to accept something from their hand without thinking of the game. This is similar to riddles, in that not everything is what it seems. To someone unaware of the game, they will think that P2 is merely handing something to P1, but someone aware of the game knows that P2 has been devising schemes. Just as riddles occupy the space between the obvious and the hidden, so do any actions of giving during a game of Yadest.

Teasing hand gesture – Arabic Children’s Folk Gesture


She learned the hand motion in Egypt when she was around 5. You would do this gesture to another person when you want to tease them. Originally, when saying it, you would say “To’ ou moot” (“Explode and die”).


For the sake of my informant’s anonymity, I performed the gesture in the video.


When I first saw the gesture, I thought it was playing on the English saying “Rubbing it in,” but then my informant translated the Arabic that accompanies the gesture. I found it hilarious that the speech and gesture have little to do with one another, but it could fall into the nonsense and taunting categories of children’s folklore (discussed by Jay Mechling in Chapter 5 of Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction).*

*Jay Mechling. “Children’s Folklore.” Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by E. Oring, 91-120. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1986.

“The monkey in his mom’s eye is a gazelle” – Arabic Proverb


She learned it from her mom and grandma in Jordan. She said that the proverb means that a mom never finds a fault in her child.


Original Script: القرد بعين امه غزال

Transliteration: El ‘ird bi aine immo ghazal

Literal Translation: The monkey in his mom’s eye is gazelle

Smooth Translation: The monkey in his mom’s eyes is a gazelle


I found this proverb to be really funny because although I’ve seen moments like what the proverb describes, it’s generally the opposite in my family: it’s usually the aunts and grandmas that see the child as better than they really are, and it’s usually the moms who are quick to tell their children their faults. The background information that one must have to understand the proverb is that monkeys are seen as ugly, but gazelles are seen as beautiful (there are love poems called ghazals because of that connection). Thus, the proverb implies that even if someone is as ugly as a monkey, their mom would see them as beautiful as a gazelle, which comments on the strength of family ties: the love of a mother would gloss over all the child’s faults.