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1.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Nov 2011 Wed 06:28 pm

The Egyptians are very eager to use titles. There is something for everyone. During one walk in a busy street I get everything from madam and mama to the learned woman (sheikha) and the woman who has performed pilgrimage (hajja). Many of the honorary titles and professional names are of Turkish origin or borrowed into Arabic through Turkish. One of them is usta. (I am not perfectly sure about the route the word has been going but it is the same word as Turkish ´master´, anyway.) In Egypt, usta sounds like lusta or yasta because there is a definite article el- or the addressing preposition ya- in front of it.

Usta is typically used for drivers. When you want to talk to the bus or taxi driver you say something like "uncle usta".

The other day there was a carpenter in the house. He was putting some shelves to the concrete wall and his drill made horrible noise. To everyone´s astonishment suddenly the neighbour´s kitchen window opened and a man shouted with a hollow voice: "What are you punching, usta?" I, of course, pricked my ears because there was something odd about this question.

Later on I understood usta is not only a driver of a vehicle. It´s the user of any machine! From now on I can call myself usta when I use the hair dryer or whisker.

2.       Abla
3647 posts
 19 Dec 2011 Mon 12:16 am

Like Turkish, Arabic also takes full advantage of possessive suffixes. They are added to funny places like interrogative pronouns feen-ak where +  poss sg 2nd ‘where are you’ and prepositions. The other day I was sitting in a bus when I heard a phrase that made me in a good mood:

Ayyi jamb ma-k, ya usta! ‘Go to the side (of the street) whenever it is suitable for you, driver’.

Litterally it consists of

any, side, with + poss sg 2nd, addressing preposition ya plus usta ‘driver’

just like ´any side with-of-yours´. I think it was a very foxy way to express it in short.

Edited (12/19/2011) by Abla

3.       Abla
3647 posts
 30 Dec 2011 Fri 05:10 pm

The Turkish origin baltacı is a very common word in colloquial Egyptian Arabic but the meaning has changed. It doesn´t mean an axe man or woodcutter any more but ´a gangster, a criminal, uneducated violent boor´. Recently after the degradation of the police force it often means ´a hitman´ who comes to balance your accounts with an unpleasant person if you can pay. Egyptian grandparents traditionally encourage small schoolers to do their homework in order not to grow up and find themselves practicing the baltacı profession.

Edited (12/30/2011) by Abla

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