Saturday, June 15, 2013

Snails and Darija 101

During orientation in Washington three friends and I made a pact to seek out and consume snails when we got to Tangier.  After several aborted afternoon ttempts some kind soul told us they can only be found in the evening and we set a final make-or-break date.  For some reason everyone we told about it, after making an emphatic yecch noise, decided it would be an interesting experience, so when the four of us marched up Sharia’ Meksik yesterday evening in search of snails there was a group of about twenty trailing us like ducklings.  I’m sure we were the cause of much perplexity, amusement, and some happiness on the part of the vendor.  His cart said “Escargot” on the side, but I much prefer the Darija word: bambush.

Darija, in case you were unaware, is the Morrocan dialect, and it bears about as much resemblance to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as Spanish to French.  MSA, otherwise known as
Fuṣḥa (that’s fus-ha, not fusha), plays a role somewhat akin to that of Latin in the Middle Ages.  It is derived from and similar to Classical Arabic, which is the language of the Qor’an, and is typically used in news broadcasts, newspapers, and political speeches.  It is not, however, a language anyone really speaks natively.  Most people grow up speaking some dialect, whether it be Egyptian, Gulf Arabic, or Darija, and learn some haphazard Fuṣḥa in school which quite a number of them, at least here in Morocco, seem to promptly forget.

I have been told several times that everyone understands Fuṣḥa, which I find to be downright misleading.  If I ever try to speak to a vendor in Fuṣḥa we end up spending several minutes hashing out the meaning of certain words, that is if he or she doesn't simply give up and try talking to me in Spanish or French.  Until relatively recently Morocco was a divided region, half (the south) in the hands of the French and half (the north, including Tangier) in those of the Spanish.  As a result, Darija has been heavily influenced by both languages, as well as modern consumer culture.  The word for skirt (“tenura” in Fuṣḥa) became “falda,” borrowed directly from Spanish.  Jam? Confiture.  Week?  "Simana," from the Spanish "semana."  And my favorite, the Darija word for yogurt: danon.  (“Tiid” is the word for laundry detergent.)

Early this morning saw us on route to Tetuan for our first group excursion, which was in many ways a complete train wreck, but I managed to grab some good photos.  I meant to leave you with a few of them, but the internet is being particularly finicky at the moment, so I suppose that can wait another day or two.

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