Klmatic Monologues: HASHAK

Klma = Word. Klmatic Monologues is a semi-regular series on words in Moroccan Arabic (Darija). Note 1: I am neither a linguist nor a native speaker, so this should be taken as amateur antics. Note 2: Darija is not a standardized written language, like Modern Standard Arabic (FusHa) or Standard English, so my Latin letter transcriptions are subjective. In other words, spelling will always be questionable.

For more Klmatic Monologues, go here.

كلمة: HASHAK / حاشاك

“Hashak” is ritualized politeness. There is not really an English equivalent. The closest would be, “Pardon me for mentioning a word or phrase or expression that is contemptible in some way.” Or maybe “Sorry for saying something nasty!”

It does not just mean “pardon me” or “sorry”—you would say “smH li” or “smH liya” (excuse me) for those general moments when you accidentally bump into someone, interrupt a room, etc. “Hashak” is always specifically used as a pardon for saying other words.

“Hashak” is very telling of what Moroccan society or a Moroccan individual thinks is dirty or uncomfortable to mention. Of course, any gross bodily function is included. But also: dirt, dogs, donkeys, trash, spitting, bathrooms, sex work, swear words, etc.

The case of donkeys (Hmar) being “hashak”ed is interesting because it seems pretty unfair to a lot of people! Donkeys aren’t contemptible. They do so much important work in society. Moroccans use them for everything, and they bear such great burdens for human comfort. Plus, they’re even kinda cute! So, why do we need to say “hashak” every time we say “Hmar”? It does make sense in a way. Linguistically speaking, ass is a synonym of donkey in English, and ass is certainly considered a dirty word. Practically speaking, donkeys are very often used as trash animals here. They haul and eat trash. Still, I’m against the use of “hashak” for donkeys! I’ve seen how people can disrespect them because they’re considered “hashak.” Too many kids in my neighborhood like to play chase-the-poor-frightened-donkey-with-sticks. 😦

That was a digression, sure, but it shows how dynamic the use of this word is. One Moroccan friend told us, “Honestly, you could probably argue whether or not ANYTHING needs a hashak.” On the other hand, one Moroccan mama told us, “When something is hashak, it is hashak. Safi!”

When someone else performs a dirty task for you, you thank them and add a “hashak.” For instance, if someone cleans up your muddy shoes or washes your underwear. (As much as you try and avoid having other people do these things, Moroccan hospitality will inevitably win.)

One very ritualized place you use “hashak” is when someone (usually the host) is washing someone else’s (usually the guest) hands. Before important events, or when important guests come over, Moroccans often use a special handwashing basin. The host pours warm water over the guest’s hands, and the guest murmurs “hashak.” Then the guest dries their hands with a towel, which is passed around the room.


The handwashing basin.

Saying “hashak” is not always necessary, especially as a foreigner. Our language trespasses are more easily forgiven. But if you do use it, it always garners appreciation and often garners laughs! And it definitely makes it less awkward to ask strangers for the location of the bathroom!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie



Notes & Anecdotes: Part 7

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. Catch all the Notes & Anecdotes here

  • Because we won’t have access to the camera to upload our pictures for a while, this is a special work-only edition of Notes & Anecdotes! Autumn is in full gear, which means work is flourishing! (It definitely dies down in the summer, even in super busy sites like ours.) If you’re only interested in adventure, culture, and/or language posts, you can skip this post.
  • Robert’s work: Right now, Robert is in an awesome coastal city in the South participating in a Community Health Workshop. When he gets back, he plans to ramp up his Health & Safety workshops. We have new counterparts for this. And our mudir is really rallying for this program. He even recruited a random kid to help him mime the Heimlich Maneuver to make sure Robert was trained in it. (Still not sure what Heimlich Maneuver is in Arabic…) It was pretty hilarious. Other things on Robert’s docket: a huge health project in the spring (stay tuned for this one!), HIV/AIDS education, and recruiting for Science Club. He’s also taking over Beginner English Classes—one for kids and one for adults.
  • Julie’s work: My classes are running as usual, even with my usual assistant Robert gone! My Advanced English classes and my Journalism/Creative Writing Program are PACKED. There’s a waiting list, which makes me feel bad. I wish there was time and room for everyone. The journalism programming is especially exciting for me! It’s igniting so many complex and thrilling topics of conversation about objectivity, ethics, freedom, etc, from so many different perspectives. I love it! I’ve also been doing a lot of Write On work: grant-writing, donations soliciting (which is way more difficult than I expected), and some advertising. But next month, as our schedules settle, there are loads of new things I want to facilitate! I want to start a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Club.
  • Other work updates: The best best best best BEST news about our work lives has to do with work that is not ours at all! It’s about sustainable development!! Two big sustainable things have happened in our city! First of all, remember the giant load of books we carted from Casablanca to our city? Well, we didn’t actually tell anyone at our Dar Chebab that we were showing up with hundreds of free books. We weren’t sure what exactly we’d do with them and had tagged it a #laterproblem. But the people of our Dar Chebab, lead by the mudir’s assistant Rahim, took the books and made a mini library. They have implemented a check-out system and an organizing system (it’s no Library of Congress, but I digress). It’s amazing and it’ll clearly keep going long after we’re gone! All we did was give it a little kickstart. 🙂 The second sustainable story is from the Model United Nations training we kinda-almost-nearly attended. We took our friend and counterpart Hazar to it right before we left for Washington DC, but we weren’t able to attend the rest of the training because of our flight time. Hazar is now starting Model United Nations classes at the Dar Chebab and hopes to bring some people to a bigger conference later. She’s going to do it all by herself, which is awesome! Robert and I have to be choosy about what we lead at the Dar Chebab because there’s so much going on and we only have so much time. Neither of us are interested in Model UN, but if other people are—we are more than willing to be sideline supporters. We can’t wait to see what happens, and we hope other students are inspired to start their own activities.
  • When we get the camera/pictures back, we’ll update posts on Eid al-Adha, our Blog It Home tour, and much more!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie