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by Mary Soderstrom

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Monday, 21 July 2014

More on Language Changing: Would That Things Be As Easy As Kids Make It Seem

A few weeks ago I posted about the inclusion of words from Arabic in Montreal French.  Wallah Wallah has become non-perjorative term for  someone of Arabic descent among Grench speaking teens in parts of the city, it seems.

Then, as hate surges through the Middle East, I was delighted to hear our Jeanne (not quite 4) encouraging her cousin Thomas (not quite 2) to take of his tricycle.  "Yalla, habibi," she said, "t'es capable."  The last part I understood straight off--"you can do it." 

The first part took a little interpretation.  Yalla means "let's go" or "come on," and "habibi" in this context is "my friend." Just the thing for a big cousin to say to a little cousin.

But just where Jeanne got the phrase is not clear.  There are a number of kids in her day care who have Arabic as their mother tongue, while a catchy popular song called "Yalla habibi" made the charts around here a while ago in its North American version.  However it happened, it's fun to see how easily a useful phrase can slip into everyday usage.

And given the horrible situation in Gaza where a number of Arabic-speaking children have been killed recently, one wishes that this kind of healthy meeting of language and culture were more widespread.  Here's an additional irony: habibi in Hebrew means the same as it does in Arabic.

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