Sunday, 27 November 2011

Word of the day: zanikh زنخ - rancid

A couple of my med-student flatmates used this word several times in conversation, with particular emphasis on the 'ikkkhhhh.' I wasn't paying attention to what they were saying, but this word flew back and forth and caught my ear. I have an irritating habit of whipping out my little notebook every time a hear a new word, interrupting the conversation, and asking everyone in the room if they have a synonym in their own dialects. They almost always do. They tease me that I'll never learn all the dialects, and they're right, I won't. Every person I meet speaks a different one.

I think words that describe something gross should have a 'kh' somewhere. There's wasikh (dirty), and kherbana (busted, wrecked when describing object, or rotten, when describing something edible). People draw out the 'kh' sound to show their disgust.

My friend's son, at a year old, would stand in his crib and say 'ikkkhhhhh,' especially if he knew he was doing something he knew he shouldn't be. It was one of the first distinctly Arabic sounds he learned, I think because he heard it so much. Whenever someone caught him rooting through the garbage or the diaper pail, they'd say 'ikkhhh,' and pull him away. Laughing when he said it back didn't help keep him out of the dirty diapers.

I've heard badly behaved people described as having 'rancid blood.' As one of my flatmates put it:

نقوله (دمه زنخ) عن بني أدم عندما حركاته مش منيح


  1. And don't forget 'kkkhhanzir'! :D I admire your learning Arabic. I've been married for seven years to an Arab and still speak at best pidgin Arabic (words, but no grammar).

  2. Oh yes, not to be confused with khizanah (cupboard). e.g. "But there's no room in my pig!"