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

a woman wearing a black gown and veil is sitting down looking into the camera while speaking
[Image description: A woman in a black gown and veil says, “I beg your pardon?”] Via Giphy
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

a man wearing a tuxedo holds a glass up while smiling
[Image description: A man wearing a tuxedo holds a glass up while smiling.] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A man in a green coat says, “I give up.”] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A woman in a black coat says “That is so beautiful!”] Via Giphy
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

a woman sitting a table with a hat and black earrings with a black dress
[Image description: A woman sitting a table with a hat and black earrings with a black dress says, “You’re making me blush.”] Via Giphy
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

 a man laying on a couch talking on the phone
[Image description: A man laying on a couch, talking on the phone says, “That’s not nice.”] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A man looks at both of his hands in astonishment.] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A man in a navy blue suit, holds his heart and says, “My heart actually hurt when you just said that.”] Via Giphy
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

two women sitting next to one another, one is smiling and the other is eating
[Image description: Two women are sitting next to each other, and one says, “You missed me!” to the other.] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A woman in a multi-colored sweater is holding a red funnel and says, “So I got this funnel, gonna tell you right now it’s a scam.”] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A man in a suit and blue tie says, “You might want to listen.”] Via Giphy
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

a man sitting a desk wearing a suit takes his glasses off in frustration
[Image description: A man in a suit is sitting at a desk and takes his glasses off in frustration.] Via Giphy
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

[Image description: A woman in a grey sweatshirt says, “Oh, my God. I just got hot. Yeah, my pits are sweating. My stomach hurts. Oh, my God!”] Via Giphy
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

a woman wearing an orange coat and a woman in a black coat are facing a window while one holds her eyes
[Image description: A woman wearing an orange coat and a woman in a black coat are facing a window, while one yells, “No, my eyes, my eyes!”] Via Giphy
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

a woman dressed in a furry red dress with her black hair up stares into the camera with a stern look
[Image description: A woman dressed in a furry red dress with her black hair up stares ahead with a stern look.] Via Giphy
In other words, don’t give me attitude.

16. Laa sharshiyet (m)/Laa sharshiyat (f); May you not get tired

a woman sitting at a desk wearing a plaid coat necking her nec
[Image description: A woman in a plaid coat, sits at a desk while stretching her neck.] Via Giphy
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?

a woman is angry and clapping her hands repeatedly in the face of another woman
[Image description: A woman angrily claps her hands repeatedly in the face of another woman.] Via Giphy
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

a woman wearing a headscarf and indian garments is speaking to someone
[Image description: A woman wearing a headscarf and orange kurti says, “Let me know if you want crap. Eat dirt or eat crap.”] Via Giphy
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.

  • Bernadette Lazar

    Bernadette has a B.A. and M.A in Political Science and is currently pursuing her PhD in the fields of Comparative Politics and International Relations. She has a passion and drive for all things ranging from human rights to transnational feminism. As an activist, she utilizes her platform to be the voice for those that are unable to share their stories with the world. As a proud multicultural feminist and humanist, Bernadette strives to make this world an equal and better place for all people one day at a time and has the ultimate goal of crushing all forms of global injustice through her pen and paper.