3aafyah



In Kuwaiti, the noun al-3aafiyah is used with the preposition "bi" when someone is about to have a meal to make bi l-3aafyah. It's the Kuwaiti Arabic translation of "bon appetit" quite simply.

bi l-3aafyah I'll call over to my sister-in-law’s daughters as they crack open their cans of biibsii and they’ll dutifully call back: Allah yi3aafii-ch!

Until today, I believed that this salutation was the only use of 3aafyah. How wrong I was. Like most Arabic words, it has a wealth of nuances. Theyab tells me that in Morocco, 3aafyah means "a fire". How strange, I thought, that a word meaning “enjoy your meal” in Kuwaiti Arabic could also mean “fire” in the Moroccan dialect?

An answer came when my thoughts turned to rama'9aan, and the feeling of eating a first bite of food after long hours of fasting. The surge of gratitude that hits you has all the movement of fire. Your fading body has its vitality restored in a rush of warmth.

We can only guess how full of diverse meaning 3aafyah must be in Modern Standard Arabic since the word, like many others, has been easily split into diverse sub-meanings and scattered across the Arab world. 

Though Arabic dialects may have lost a lot of their poetry to day-to-day practicality, there it is lying buried beneath the surface of so many words, only visible to those wanting to look more closely at the apparent discrepancies and cracks, like truffles in sand.