Curses of the Middle East and North Africa.

Via bulbul’s Facebook feed, Romano-Arabica XIX (2019): Curses and Profanity in the Languages and Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa (editors in charge of this issue: George Grigore & Gabriel Bițună). It’s 259 pages long, with articles ranging from Lucia Avallone, “Literary Creativity and Curses. A Study Case: ’an takūn ‘Abbās al-‘Abd, by ’Aḥmad al-‘Āydī” to Jonas Sibony, “Curses and Profanity in Moroccan Judeo-Arabic and What’s Left of it in the Hebrew Sociolect of Israelis from Moroccan Origins,” plus Miscellanea and book reviews. The whole thing is online at the link, and you can download it freely. I’m immediately interested in Gabriel M. Rosenbaum, “Curses, Insults and Taboo Words in Egyptian Arabic: in Daily Speech and in Written Literature,” so I’m off to take a look at it. My deep appreciation to bulbul for continuing to post good stuff to FB!


  1. From Rosenbaum:

    Some words that are used in curses and abuses, such as dīn (“religion”) and kuss (“cunt”) may also be used as curse intensifiers, as in ʔibn-i dīn kalb (lit.: “you son of a dog’s religion”) meaning “you bloody son of a dog”, and ḥaṭallaʕ dīn ʔummak (lit.: “I’ll dig out your mother’s religion”, regarded as very coarse because both the mother and the religion of the addressee are mentioned). The word kuss (“cunt”; see below, section 4.3.) may be added plenty of times to curses in order to intensify them, as in Allāh yinʕal ʔabu kuss ʕumm-u ʔumm il-yōm ʔilli šuft-i fīh wišš-i kuss ʔummak (“may God curse the father [also: ‘owner’] of the cunt of the mother of the day in which I saw the ‘front’ [also: ‘hymen’] of your mother’s cunt”).

  2. Interesting:

    The common abuse phrase ʔibn-il-kalb (“son of a dog”), in the version ʔibn-i kalb (without the definitive article), may also have two contradictory meanings, negative and positive, as in ṭaʕmuʔ ibn-i kalb: “it tastes awful” or “it tastes wonderful [bloody good]”.

  3. More:

    A few years ago the word tīt was added to the lexicon of Egyptian Arabic. It is the equivalent of the English “beep” (or “pips”), an onomatopoeic word that represents the short high-pitched sound used in electronic media to cover or to prevent the hearing of a word or a phrase that are regarded as obscene or taboo. Tīt now serves as a euphemism that is used to replace any word or phrase regarded as coarse, abusive, dirty, improper etc. In contemporary Egyptian Arabic this word has become a term of abuse itself and is often used in speech, and sometimes in writing, leaving the meaning to the imagination of the addressee, the listener or the spectator, as in ya -bn-i -ṭ-tīt (“you son-of-a-tīt”; see also below, section 12.3.). In some contexts, therefore, it may be regarded as vulgar and avoided by speakers; a euphemism may thus become a dysphemism.

  4. John Cowan says

    “I’ll dig out your mother’s religion”

    Reminds me of “Dig up their bones!”, a call to religious riot against heretics used by mobs in Constantinople back in the day. (I don’t know what the Greek was.)

  5. It’s ἀνασκαφῇ τὰ ὀστέα [anaskaphêi tà ostéa].

  6. David Marjanović says

    …So, there’s a 240-volume work on military matters, including two glossaries where Chinese terms or phrases are translated into Mongolian, which is transcribed in Chinese characters. One chapter is “body parts”, another is “bodily functions”, and both contain whole curses. Check it out.


  1. […] Hat reports on a new scholarly publication, hundreds of pages long, gathering together the curses and […]

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