I think most people who speak a native language at home other than English can empathize with the fact that what we say in our languages, doesn’t always make sense when translated to English. When I was a kid, I didn’t really pick up on this idea of how things translate. Fast forward to adulthood and suddenly I am sitting at my kitchen table trying to explain to my American friend why “ash on your head” in Assyrian is a perfectly normal thing to say.
The Assyrian language is a dialect of the ancient Akkadian language and its culture is one full of rich history. Once a powerful empire, it now has no country of its own today. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, much of the Assyrian population became dispersed throughout the Middle East. To date, Assyrian people are considered an indigenous group and often reside throughout the Middle East, Americas, Europe, and Australia.
The Assyrian language has its fair share of phrases and idioms that will make you laugh and scratch your head. Whatever the case, they add to the beauty that is the Assyrian culture.
The following are some of the most humorous Assyrian phrases that make absolutely no sense when translated into English. Let’s see which ones end up being your favorite:
1. Qitma brishookh (m)/brishakh (f); Ash on your head
Let that sink in. This is typically said to someone that did something stupid or not wise. For example, if someone decided to take their car out and do donuts while blindfolded, you would say, “ash on your head.”
2. Brikhta hamamookh (m)/hamamakh (f); Congratulations on your shower or bless your shower
You bathed – way to go tiger! What can I say, we are a culture that believes in positive reinforcement and affirmations. This phrase actually means that we hope your shower refreshed you. When you shower, you’re washing away the day so you should feel refreshed, clean, and clear of mind.
3. Saat’ookh patkha (m)/Saat’akh patkha (f); Your watch will open
I am 30 years old and still don’t quite get this one. This is typically said before the shower and Assyrian families say that you should take a shower to open your watch. I believe what it means is take a shower to change your mood or to clear your mind. Let’s just go with that.
4. Khilee libookh (m)/libakh (f); I ate your heart
Let me tell you something – you have never been loved if your significant other doesn’t tell you they want to eat your heart. Jokes aside, this can actually be said in different contexts. A couple can say this to each other. A parent to a child. Friends to friends. Usually it’s said when one person says or does something sweet, you will hear the other say something like I ate your heart. It is a term of endearment in most cases.
5. Avit baseema (m)/Oyat bassimta (f); May you be tasty
Sounds odd, I know. This is actually how you would say thank you to someone. Not that they’re actually tasty.
6. Lavit baseema (m)/Layat bassimta (f); Don’t be tasty
This is precisely the opposite of the prior one. You would use this if someone says or does something that is displeasing to you. This can be used in so many different situations from playful banter to being legitimately upset. It basically means, “no thanks will be given to you.”
7. Eedookh la maree (m)/Eedakh la maree (f); May your hands not get tired
This is a really polite thing to say. You can say this to someone who has cooked a meal, after you finish it. You can also say it to someone that works with their hands like an architect or a builder.
8. Libee khleesele; My heart is squeezed
This is a very sweet comment. It is basically how you would say “I miss you” to someone. It means you miss them so much your heart feels like it’s literally being squeezed from the pain of being apart.
9. Doochtookh spikta (m)/Doochtakh spikta (f); Your space is empty
This is another phrase that is equally polite as it is nice to say to someone. You typically would say this if say you are having a get together in your home and your friend calls saying they aren’t able to attend. You would say this in the context of telling them you wish they were here because their lack of presence is noticeable.
10. Chooseeta mooteeloon brishe; They put a hat on my head
Boy oh boy have I been able to say this a few times in my life. You usually use this phrase when you have been conned or cheated. For example, say you go shopping and you get sold a product that is faulty, you would say they put a hat on my head. It is a way of saying they made me look foolish.
11. Qa tara tay qat jooyda shameh; Tell the door so the wall hears
You would do this when you want someone to listen to you, so you speak indirectly to them by talking to someone else while being around the other person. So, for example, say you are sitting at the table and you say to your friend, “I wish someone would take the trash out” when in fact you want your husband to hear so he takes it out. You’re talking to the door so the wall hears.
12. In basmalookh (m)/In basmalakh (f); If it pleases you or if it cures you
This actually doesn’t mean either of those things. Shocking, I know. It’s actually how you would say please to someone.
13. Keesee qarta mikhyala; My stomach got a cold
Yes, in Assyrian even your organs can catch colds. You usually say this if you ate something bad or if you have the stomach bug.
14. Aynookh chpeenena (m)/Aynakh chpeenena (f); Your eyes are hungry
You would normally say this to someone that wants to eat more but isn’t necessarily hungry. They are looking at the food and contemplating if they should grab another plate, but they’re really full.
15. B’cheela biyee la qashik; Don’t look crooked at me
In other words, don’t give me attitude.
16. Laa sharshiyet (m)/Laa sharshiyat (f); May you not get tired
This is a very polite phrase to say. You typically say this to someone that comes home from work or someone that has been studying all night. It’s a nice way of saying I hope the day did not tire you.
17. Rishookh shakheenileh? (m)/Rishakh shakheenileh? (f); Is your head hot?
No, this has nothing to do with having a fever. You say this to someone that wants to pick a fight or is picking a fight.
18. Khool ikhreh; Eat poop
Yep that’s right. It’s a more aggressive way of saying shut up in Assyrian. You can say this in two settings: 1) someone that ticks you off and you want them to shut up or 2) to a friend in a joking/banter kind of manner.