The Origin of Language

I'm happy to indulge my neighbors when I visit them and play their daily game of "What's This?" They point to something, ask, in Arabic, "شو هذا؟ (What's this?)", and I respond with "A table. A door. A cucumber. A shoe." It's entertaining to listen to them (mis)pronounce the words and roll the foreign syllables over their tongues. Some neighbors are convinced that all languages stem from Arabic:
My Neighbors: "شو هذا؟ (What's this?)"
Me: "Plate."
Them: "Play-tuh. شو هذا؟"
Me: "Tea."
Them: "Teeeee. شو هذا؟"
Me: "Tomato."
Them: "Toe-may-toe. شو هذا؟"
Me: "Television. Or TV."
Them: "والله ؟ نفس الشي بالعربي نقوله teluh-vi-zee-ohn... (Really? Same thing! In Arabic we also say teluh-vi-zee-ohn...)"
And so I get a lecture that the word television, because its pronunciation is roughly the same in English and Arabic, originates from Arabic and that the Americans stole the Arabic word because a. we couldn't think of a translation, b. the Arabic word is just so smooth-sounding, or c. both of the above. This is the same with the words mobile telephone, satellite, CD, sweater, Ibuprofen, Pepsi, and contact lenses. Efforts to explain that maybe, just maybe, words like television and CD existed first in America and then were later introduced to the Arab world or that there are no Arabic-English translations for words like Ibuprofen or names like Sara and Mohammed are futile. Hopeless. They are convinced that the Arab language is the mother tongue.
I just stop arguing and continuing playing their game.
Them: "شو هذا؟"
Me: "Chicken."
Them: "Chee-kahn. شو هذا؟"
Me: "Goat."
Them: "Goe-tuh. شو هذا؟"
Me: "Camel."
And my linguistic lecture continues with a lesson on how there are 7 words for camel in Arabic. Why doesn't the English language also have 7 words for the same animal? sigh...

Popular Posts