Monday, December 23, 2013

This kebab shop is for haters

This photo showed up on my Facebook news feed this afternoon. Pictured is an image of a kebab shop storefront with 2 signs posted--the top one in French with one in hybrid Arabic/French just below. It appears that the image beneath that is a standard "do not enter" sign.

The French sign reads, "Unmarried couples are not permitted in the restaurant." Needless to say, it contains spelling/grammar mistakes. The hybrid Arabic sign reads similarly, "Entry is prohibited to an unmarried couple." There is also a grammar/spelling mistake in the Arabic sign. It should read "[غير المتزوجين]" instead of "[الغير متزوجين]". But then again, bigots aren't renowned for their language skills, I guess.

This sign is alleged to originate in Algeria. The individual who posted the image that my friend shared, and which consequently landed on my feed, commented, "[كاين كباب حلال و كاين نيك الحلال راك فاهم !]". His comment is Algerian Arabic, and that may be the explanation for the supposition that the image is Algerian. The comment means, "There are halal (religiously/morally acceptable) kebab shops and there are halal sex shops, ya dig?" Incidentally, my friend Bilal, the sharer of this image, tells me that نيك is considered crass or offensive--two of my favorite adjectives. Fun!

The inclusion of a sign in French means we can reasonably assume this image comes from Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia. I am going to see if I can find out more about this image. Thanks for the share, Bilal!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A fart joke in Moroccan Arabic

I was handsomely rewarded for checking my Facebook news feed this morning. A Moroccan friend, whose name means "loyalty" (I absolutely love Moroccan and Arab names), posted the above cartoon in Moroccan Arabic.

The young man is leaning toward the young woman, his left arm propping him up on the tree. The young woman is standing, leaning against the tree, under the man's gaze. His hand is gestured toward her, and he asks, "Young lady, why are you standing alone here?"

She replies, "In order to fart."

بالدارجة المغربية:

الشاب: واش الشابة. وعلاش راكي قاعدة وحدك هنا؟؟

الشابة: باش نحزق 


ash-shab: wash ash-shaba. w3lash raky qa3da wa7dk hinna?
ash-shaba: bash n7zaq

Have you seen any fun/funny Moroccan cartoons lately?

Update and renaissance

I enjoy writing this blog, and I will be writing again soon. I have accumulated a list of writing ideas, and I am excited about making regular contributions.

The past two years have been tumultuous professionally, and thus personally.

I was laid off in February 2012. When my unemployment ran out, I began working several part-time jobs from November 2012 to March 2013.

On the last day of February 2013, I thought my ship had come in. I was offered a great job in my field, and it involved an 800 mile (1200 km) relocation. I began work in March 2013. It was my dream job, and all the sweeter because of the anticipation I had built up over 13 months of un/underemployment.

Alas, I was laid off in November. It is an understatement to describe the layoff as devastating. It was more than devastating, it was traumatizing. I was unprepared financially, professionally, and personally, and the economic aftermath of the layoff will have consequences for me for years, mostly negative.

A layoff again so soon has wrecked my life. Not destroyed, but wrecked. In the sense that there are serious car wrecks where no one dies, but someone might need a neck brace for a few months. My life will get back on track, but I have no way of knowing when or how exactly.

In that vein, getting back to this blog will help me to feel connected to international development, North Africa and the Middle East, and social justice in general. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Media, advertising, and development in Morocco

The passage below comes my dissertation. The hulking monster is nearly 100,000 words (now that I've cut this passage, it's 98,939 words). I am posting this text, which seems too good to sacrifice completely but not good enough to include in the final version.


Media and advertising play a role in development around the world, and Morocco is not an exception. Advertising sells everything to everyone without distinction, as if the masses of society were classless.[1] To do this, advertising tries to reflect “an ideal world, sanitized of any tragedy.”[2] Commercial advertising ignores the underdevelopment, poverty, insecurity and exclusion that stem from the hardship that advertising sanitizes away. Commercial advertising never mentions weapons or wars. Commercial advertising presents an innocent, optimistic, and utopian world, full of happiness where there is absolutely no injustice or inequality.[3] Moroccan writer Abdeslam Bouhani asks: In the absence of representations of inequality and injustice, where in commercial advertising is the evidence or representation or validation or testament of the hundreds of millions of excluded people and outcasts, condemned to living their entire lives in abject poverty? How do marginalized people fulfill and perceive the fantasies or illusions of happiness which commercial advertising promises and which almost never come true?

Commercial advertising conveyed via the many types of mass media is targeted, well-defined and precise. For the advertisers, there is no consideration of those who are not a part of the targeted demographic and how they may be negatively affected or suffer harm as a result of consuming commercial advertising intended for a different audience. The individuals and communities not targeted by commercial advertising often comprise an overwhelming majority. Thus, for Bouhani, these audiences consume and process commercial advertising as aborted dreams and unfulfilled longings, accompanied by feelings of deprivation, frustration (especially among the impoverished) or even exclusion and marginalization. Those who are almost always excluded from the target audience demographic include rural residents, the handicapped, ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, overweight people, poor people, and any others who do not assimilate easily into the rosy picture that forms the heart of the image that commercial advertising creates and exploits. In the case of those living in poverty, Bouhani concludes that their exclusion and marginalization inevitably increases their awareness of the horror of the economic injustice and social inequality that they experience as a part of their everyday lives.[4]

In sum, Bouhani considers commercial advertising to be playing a pernicious role in development. Because commercial advertising presents only a fantastical, sanitized, ideal version of life, the images create a world where development is unnecessary because there is no suffering or inequality or poverty. Furthermore, commercial advertising exacerbates the exclusion and marginalization experienced by the poor and other subaltern populations because they consume that which was created for the consumption of others. Because commercial advertising is created for mass consumption by an imagined homogenous, prosperous, dominant population, those outside of that demographic experience exclusion and marginalization as a part of their media consumption.

[1] Ignacio Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs," Le Monde Diplomatique, Mai 2001. cited in Abdeslam Bouhani, Sauvez la femme sauvez le monde, 1st ed. (Aïn Sebaâ: Les Editions Maghrébines, 2010). 70.

[2] Louis Quesnel, "La publicité et sa "philosophie."," Communications 17(1971). cited in Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs." cited in Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70.

[3] Quesnel, "La publicité et sa "philosophie."." cited in Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs." cited in Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70.

[4] Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70-71.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Roundup of my favorite online foreign language resources


While preparing a presentation for my media Arabic class, I needed the term "middle income country" in Arabic. Crowd-sourcing came through as usual, and my lovely friend Alex sent me the link to a UN database of terms. I hereby enthusiastically add it to my list of favorite foreign language resources.


"UNTERM is a multilingual terminology database which provides United Nations nomenclature, technical or specialized terms and common phrases in all six official UN languages - English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic."


This website, maintained by PhD student Erol Baykal, is fantastic. You enter the root letters of the verb and the form and poof, a chart of conjugations appears. Amazing.


Dr. Martin Beaudoin from the University of Alberta, Campus Saint-Jean maintains Le Devoir conjugal. This site likewise produces conjugations (for more than 7400 French verbs, including rare and Canadian verbs). Just gorgeous.


IATE (Inter-Active Terminology for Europe) is the EU inter-institutional terminology database, and provides translations of words and phrases from and into EU languages. It allows you to narrow results by domains, including politics, law, science and many others.


Leo offers translations into and from German into several other languages. It has been simplifying my life since 2001 at least.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hans Wehr Part 2: Update!

Dear Fellow Arabophiles and Hans Wehr Devotees!

The wonderful Alaina, who has starred in many of my posts, informs me this very morning that web searching "Hans Wehr biography" yields my blog entry Hans Wehr Part 1 as the #1 result!! This is exciting news!

I have a wonderful Hans Wehr tidbit to share, and then I promise to add a follow up on my research attempts in Leipzig in 2010.

Here is the tidbit...

I found this gem by chance while searching for information about where Hans Wehr is buried. The source is: Zeitschriften der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (1983). There is also an information rich write up on Hans Wehr in German, which I will translate and summarize for the Hans Wehr devotees who haven't had time to learn my favorite foreign language!

You're welcome!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Being Unemployed Part II: How to Stop Mansplaining to Job Searchers

In general I write here about North Africa, the Arab world, and women’s rights issues. I a recent post, I wrote about fatshaming, an issue of great interest to me. In this post, the second in a possibly 3-part series, I am going to write about being unemployed.

There are certain experiences in life, such as attempting to diet/lose weight, pregnancy, or unemployment, where EVERYONE has advice. Let me repeat: EVERYONE has advice. Everyone seems to have a plan or know someone whose plan was successful. And every person wants to share it. Unsolicited, usually. Almost always. This phenomenon is known as “mansplaining,” explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.

Being unemployed has been the third worst experience of my life.** I’ve tried at various times to rationalize it as “time to get stuff I’ve always wanted to do done,” or “time to get enough sleep and be rested” before facing the rejection/feelings of being invisibility that accompany the job search. The effectiveness of these rationalizations varies in terms of how much they can assuage my sadness/feelings of inadequacy/worthlessness. The unsolicited advice in general does not provide any solace.

A gracious, patient person might explain away these advice givers simply as compassionate individuals with the best intentions. That explanation is no longer enough for me to keep my rage at bay. I have currently been unemployed or underemployed since February 2012. Everyone, as I mentioned above, has advice.


Before I get to the nut meat, I want to qualify the above by affirming that I do value advice—the kind that is solicited and originates from an informed, reasoned source with actual knowledge and/or experience of the subject at hand.

But in terms of topics like weight loss, pregnancy, or unemployment—these topics that are somehow fair game for everyone to advise—I am much less receptive to the often inane, irrelevant, uninformed counsel of the public. It is insulting, annoying, and frustrating.

And now: 3 questions to ask BEFORE offering unsolicited advice to a job searcher

1. What are your educational/professional credentials?

This question sets the stage by providing the giver-of-unsolicited-advice a background upon which to base his/her otherwise uninformed, probably-too-general-and-not-relevant-anyway advice.

But STOP there. Don’t begin advising yet. Take in the answer you received for question one and then PROCEED TO QUESTION 2 WITHOUT ADVISING.

2. What is your industry/what type of work are you looking for?

This question, in conjunction with the first question, provides the giver-of-unsolicited-advice with a more precise idea of the unwilling advisee’s career ambitions.

But STOP there. Don’t begin advising yet. Continue to mull the responses and then CONTINUE ON TO QUESTION 3 WITHOUT ADVISING.

3. What have you tried?

This question is intended to provide the giver-of-unsolicited-advice with an idea of what websites, networks, methods, processes, etc. one has already tried or is already familiar with. This question and its response are designed to eliminate redundant suggestions about who is hiring (For example: I heard NATO is hiring. Oh really? Because I just got laid off from NATO), what kinds of websites are available (Have you heard of USAJobs? Have you considered the State Department? No, as a person with a Ph.D. in international relations-ey stuff and the recipient of multiple grants from the US Dept. of State, including one with a federal government service requirement, I'VE SOMEHOW NEVER HEARD OF THESE THINGS OR CONSIDERED THEM).

Ah ha!

In conclusion, dear giver-of-unsolicited-advice, now that you are equipped with this information, please heed it. I am confident that you will find that a good portion of your suggestions are redundant, not relevant, and/or superfluous.

However, because you were not self-aware enough to consider the above on your own, it is perhaps wishful thinking to believe that a giver-of-unsolicited-advice would even recognize him/herself as an offender.

** The worst experience of my life was my parents' divorce. The second worst was bed bugs.

TL;DR Take time to ask a few questions before launching immediately into advice-giving to a job searcher.