Lebanon is a mish-mash of cultures, religions, and traditions, and all this diversity has certainly seeped into our language. Ours is a language that is not easily defined - Arabic mixed with French and English flavors (the infamous “hi, kifak, ca va?”) as well as traditional sayings and phrases that are quite impossible to translate. They say a good translation is one that conveys the general meaning behind the phrase rather than the literal transposition of individual words - here are five Lebanese expressions that are impossible to translate:


[Image credit:Maya Zankoul.]


1. “7amil el sullom bil 3ared”

Translation: “carrying the ladder horizontally”; in other words, inflating your troubles and complicating things. This is a classic, in laid-back Lebanese fashion, you are always advised to not carry the ladder horizontally.

2. “Felij la t3alij”

Translation: “paralyze to cure”; in other words, a hopeless case. Much like taxi drivers and Beirut red lights. Rain and Beirut traffic. The Lebanese government and governance. You get the gist.

3. “Fakhar ykassir ba3do”

Translation: “let the pottery break itself”; in other words, let them deal with their own mess. Another typical Lebanese saying that encourages apathy and inaction. (I’m starting to think our passive nature is due to our language.)

4. “Rakeblo sabouneh”

Translation: “ have him ride a soap”; in other words, get him off your back or blow him off. Why would we want to face our troubles when we can just wash them away with soap? We wouldn’t. Right you are.


5. “Ta2 7anak”

Translation: “cracking jaws”; or, being engaged in idle talk or activity. You guessed it, this is another classic. We do a lot of jaw cracking in this neck of the woods, just running into someone at the supermarket leads to a 20-minute conversation. Think you can be efficient all day? Think again and blame your jaw.

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