Tag Archives: arabic

Eyelash wishing game – Arabic Children’s Folk Game

Context:

She was in an all-girls elementary school in Jordan when she learned this game. She thought that it was silly, and did not pay much mind to it, saying that “girls, usually teenagers, like to make wishes.” There are two versions of this game that she remembers.

Game (Version 1):

The game involves two people (P1 and P2), and one of their eyelashes. P1, after noticing a fallen eyelash near one of P2’s eyes, immediately tells P2 to make a wish, and guess an eye (left or right). If P2 guesses the eye that the eyelash is near, their wish is supposed to come true. If they don’t, nothing happens.

Game (Version 2):

The game involves two people (P1 and P2), and one of their eyelashes. P1, after noticing a fallen eyelash near one of P2’s eyes, immediately grabs the eyelash and squeezes it between their thumb and index finger. P1 then tells P2 to make a wish, and guess which finger the eyelash will stick to. After the guess, P1 separates their fingers to see which finger the eyelash is stuck to. If P2 guesses the finger that the eyelash is stuck to, their wish is supposed to come true. If they don’t, nothing happens.

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

Thoughts:

I remember my informant playing this game with me when I was in elementary school, and it reminded me of how people at that time would also blow on the dandelion seed puffs and make a wish. At its core, when one makes a wish, they are hoping that something is accomplished that they themselves do not have the power to do. Jay Mechling, in Chapter 5 of Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, notes that a “theme [pervading children’s folklore] is power, something children generally do not have in their institutional settings. So they take power, or play at taking power, through their folklore.”* This aligns with the idea of making a wish when an eyelash comes loose and the child guesses the right eye or finger; they earned a wish (an instance of unlimited power) that they can use as they please.

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

Teasing hand gesture – Arabic Children’s Folk Gesture

Context:

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”).

Gesture:

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

Thoughts:

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.

You will leave the world empty-handed – Arabic Story

Context:

He heard this story in the 1960s from a family member of the man who passed away (منكو, pronounced “Mango” despite the “k” sound). The burial took place in Amman, Jordan, and said that “people talked about it for two decades but still old people in my age remember the story and talk about it till these days.” According to him, “it was not usual at all that deceased people have their body parts hanging out of the coffin.” He said that it is like a warning: no matter how much you have, money does nothing for you when you die. A peaceful life is therefore better than a life spent chasing money.

Text:

“A very rich man, multi-millionaire, knew that he was going to die soon because he was very sick. When he wanted to do his will, he asked that when they put him in the coffin, to put his hand out of the coffin, open and empty. He wanted people to see that he took nothing with him. He left empty-handed.”

Thoughts:

This story is profound because it acknowledges the temporary nature of material goods. Because there are stereotypes about Arab parents wanting their children to be either engineers or doctors so that they can make a lot of money, this story feels like a counterbalance. Although it is not bad to make money, encouraged by the stereotype, the story warns people to not focus their life on getting money for the sake of being rich. If someone does not heed the story, they essentially wasted their life; what good will their riches do when they die? Additionally, because having body parts hanging outside the coffin was “not usual at all,” the man must have known this as well, and went against the norm in order to make his warning memorable. This story acknowledges the presence of greed in humanity, and encourages its listeners to value moderation.

Beggars have conditions – Arabic Jokes

Context:

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?’”

Thoughts:

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).

How to play Seven and a Half (Sebah ou Nus) – Arabic Card Game

Context:

He learned this game when he was around 10 years old from older relatives in Jordan, trying to mimic the adults playing Blackjack 21.

Game:

The game can have many players, and it requires a standard deck of cards without 8s, 9s, 10s, and Jokers.

In order to choose the dealer, each player draws a random card from the deck. Whoever has the highest number is the dealer. Picture cards–like Kings, Queens, and Jacks–are worth ½, and the Ace is worth 1. However, the Queen of Hearts can either be any whole number from 1-7, or ½, depending on the player’s choice.

The game is played similarly to Blackjack 21, so each player asks for cards until they feel like they will go over 7½, called “burn” here instead of “bust,” or until they get 7½, at which they must flip over all their cards. Each player places a bet on their card before taking another card from the dealer, called taking a “hit,” and the amount can’t be changed after they take a hit. When the player no longer wants cards from the dealer, they will say that they are “asleep.”

The dealer, after all the players are burnt or asleep, takes cards and “wakes” players (asks them to show their cards) as they please. If the dealer’s total is greater than the player’s who was woken up, the dealer gets the money placed on the card. If it’s the other way around, the dealer must pay the player the amount on the card. If the totals are equal, no money is exchanged. If the dealer burns while taking a hit, they must pay each player that is asleep the amount on their cards.

If a player gets 7½ in two cards, they become the dealer in the next round unless someone else gets it in two cards as well. In the latter case, they decide who becomes the dealer. The dealership can also be sold to another player by the current dealer even if they did not get 7½ in two cards.

(I added the parentheticals to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)

Thoughts:

This is one of my favorite card games; I learned it from my parents and grandparents when I was in middle school. Because the length of the game is not proportional to the size of the deck, but rather to the skills of the players, a single game can go for over an hour before somebody runs out of money. I remember we would play it whenever we knew that we could sit uninterrupted for a couple of hours, usually at night. Although it appears to be a child’s version of Blackjack 21, it can bring the whole family together, which leads me to believe that the reason this game has not been replaced by Blackjack 21 is because of how well it engages the whole family.

For other variations, see https://www.pagat.com/banking/sette_e_mezzo.html