I recently wandered into a discussion about why I used the word ‘wesh’ – literally translated into ‘face’ – in a strange context. After trying to make sense of the term and attempting to come up with the origins of the word in that context, we reached the conclusion that the expression does not make any sense, it just is – wesh.
Truth is, ‘wesh’ is just one of many expressions in an ever-growing roster of youth speak.
If you are not familiar with this word, don’t fret. It is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to keep up with the new terms and phrases – much less their lingual usage – that are frequently used by the young, hip scene.
While the older generations are caught up in debates about whether globalization is conflicting with our culture, it is the younger generation that is reinventing the language, embracing the phenomenon of new lingo and bringing about a revolution of ideas and trends into the country.
This internationalism is the trend of the modern jargon the youth developed to better express themselves and their lifestyle. Growing up in a conservative culture run by centuries-old traditions and customs while watching Friends and chatting on MSN, young people have combined both worlds in the way they speak. New Arabized-English words are coined everyday.
Critics have described today’s youth as oppressed and blindly adopting Western values. The young generation has also been blamed for obliterating the Arabic language and Egyptian identity, replacing it with a globalized modern identity that goes against our morals. But there is always the possibility that they are simply spicing up the language to better suit the new technology and global trends.
For example, ‘karwez,’ the newly invented variation of ‘cruise,’ means to cruise around in the car with friends. Along the same variation of verbs, ‘sayev’ means to save; ‘shayek’ is to check. There are also variations on commonly used nouns and adjectives: ‘tanshana’ stems from tension; ‘mehayper’ from hyperactive; ‘parashot’ coming from parachute, which means a third wheel or someone who takes advantage of your resources without being invited; and ‘jentala’ stems from gentlemen.
The list is endless and could fill up the entire newspaper, in fact last year a book was released by Kenouz, a local publishing house, exclusively discussing the new lingo of Egyptian youth. The 273-page book is called “Qamous Rewesh Tahn, or “An Extremely Cool Dictionary, written by journalist Yasser Hemaya.
“The young generation has chosen a new way to express themselves, their love, their jokes, agonies and ideas . We are not airheads or ignorant as some older people call us, the truth is every young generation has its language and if you look back at yourselves at this age, you will recall saying words which older people described as incomprehensible, says Hemaya in his introduction.
In the book, Hemaya compiles around 500 words and expressions used nowadays by young people, in addition to other sections about linguistic topics such as the language of online chatting and the language of taxi-drivers.
There have also been innovations made in order to make the default written language, which is English, for computers and mobile phones more convenient.
The most famous of all is using the numbers 2, 3, 7 to replace Arabic sounds which don’t exist in English. This makes online conversations and text messaging more fluent and readable for Egyptian users.
The ABCs of street lingo A quick roundup of the basic terms often used by the country’s younger generation.
AAssar: finish up; literally means: shortenAfash: got madAlashet: attempted joke went bad Antakh: vegging or relaxingBBa’ato: tricked him; literally means: sent him somewhere Be’aa: tacky; literally means: environment DDaye’a: out of this world; literally means: lostEEftekas: invent or make up Ehla’a: ignore it; literally means: get a hair-cut Enkosho: try to get something out of another person, usually a confession or gossip Eshta: I’m in; literally means: creamEzbahal: stunned FFakaset: got messed up or ruinedFasal: not excited anymore or got bored; literally means: expelled or cut the electricity from something GGilda: a miser or a person who hates spending money; literally means: a piece of leather HHabat: my excitement has been curbed or not up for a certain plan anymore; literally means: fell or landed Hakhla’a: I’ll take offHo’ena: a person who makes you angry or fuels tension between friends; literally means injection JJongar: a person with big muscles who thinks he is Johnny Bravo and likes to start fights KKabbar: grow out of itKarwet: to wrap-up something and get it over and done with quickly, usually in haste Khanea’: dull person, literally means: suffocating LLasa’: out of their mind NNafad: ignore it; literally means: clean upRRewesh: cool or hipSSa’at: got bored of it or drop itTTahn: extremely; literally means: milling Tanesh: ignore itTahyees: goofing around ZZabbatni: hook me up with this boy or girl; literally means: organize or arrange