Idioms

I said ID I OMs. Not idiots. Although that is my favorite word. Idiot. There is something so satisfying about saying idiot. I love it. Whoa off topic.

For those readers for whom English is not your first language, (I do have readers from Australia after all), (Hi Sue), an idiom is an expression that has an alternate meaning. For example, “he just didn’t pass muster”, which means that “he” wasn’t up to snuff (oops, another idiom), or “he” didn’t make the grade. Oh damn it.

Not to be confused with the mistaken idioms of “He didn’t pass the mustard”, because I’ve heard that on a conference call more than once.
So I was reminded today of idioms because I was actually thinking about expressions, but they are sort of relatives. Cousins really. But I was thinking of expressions in other languages because I was reminded today of an expression that I heard often in Morocco that made me giggle.

You see language is a funny thing in Morocco. There are a lot of them. Languages, dialects, not a lot of drunken slurs, but occasionally. There is Arabic, and French, and Dirija which is an Arabic dialect, and Berber. I listen closely when French is spoken and actually pick up some, not a lot but some. When I go to Marrakech I intend to take French lessons so I can learn to hail my own taxi and apply for residency. Its nice to know what the forms say when you fill them 0ut instead of just printing your name and then “Canadian” on every other line. So embarrassing.

And Berber. Berber is a really lovely language to listen to and if you listen closely you can hear a bit of Arabic and Spanish and French in there. Its like a crockpot full of words. I love it.

So on to the expressions. Aside from having people talking at you in several different languages and better yet, several different currencies, there are few expressions in English that stand out. I have a thing for the Berber accent. But thats me. Yet there was one expression that knocked me over every time I heard it. “You’re welcome.”

Turns out that in Berber/Arabic/French, there is a tendency to say “you’re welcome” to mean, in fact, “you are welcome”. You, my friend, are welcome here. In this place. To here. You are welcome here. So literal.

Of course in Canada, we are so darn polite that we are constantly tossing out “you’re welcome” in a way that, when you think about it, isn’t nearly as literal. WE are the ones with the weird idiom. “Thank you”, “You are welcome.” Uh. Ok. Here’s how the conversation goes with a Berber…..”Hey, I booked my flight”. “You are welcome.” “No, thank you.” (Head scratching). That’s not right.

I first noticed it in Moulay Idriss. I first noticed a lot of things in Moulay Idriss. But here’s what happened. We were introducing ourselves to our host at our homestay and each time someone said “my name is Sue, and I’m from Australia” (trust me – that happened A LOT), he would say “You are welcome”. Well then…..It was a little weird. We all noticed it. No one said anything because hey, it makes perfect sense. Its polite. Its endearing. And its true. We were welcome. Its a Berber home. Everyone is welcome.

So there you have it. The one weird thing that really stood out for me. That and the local guide in Meknes who was really lovely and soft spoken, and who would say, frequently, “Ah, excuse me.” I always thought we were about to get in trouble. But he just wanted our attention. Phew.

Oh, and by the way, in case you caught it, I did. I booked my flight. January 12th.

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