Klmatic Monologues: RAS

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: RAS / رأس

Literally, “ras” means “head.” Some people might know it from the name of that Batman supervillain. In Moroccan Arabic, “ras” is used in abundance metaphorically.

“Ras” is a synonym for “self.” It refers to the human being in their entirety, so in Arabic, the head is the locus of everything that makes the self what it is. The body, in this metaphor, is inconsequential. Ras + possessive suffix = reflexive action.

“B rasu” means “by onself” or “alone.” Similarly, “mn rasu l-rasu” means “on one’s own.” However, it also implies that the person should have accepted aid. Mn rasni l-rasni. I did it on my own… but I should have asked someone for help.

The word “rais,” meaning president, comes from “ras” too. People also use “ras” to mean the beginning or end of something. The extremities. It’s the source of the river and the peak of the mountain.  The start of a story and the top of a page.

Ras al Mt. Toubkal, the tallest summit in North Africa.

Ras al Mt. Toubkal, the tallest summit in North Africa.

A common thing we say when we say goodbye is “thalla f rask,” which means “take care of yourself.” Because it literally means “take care of your head,” there’s a joke that we hear a lot in which someone replies to “thalla f rask” with “b shampwan” (with shampoo)!

Other ways to use “ras”

baraka f rask = blessings on your head = blessings on you (what we say in times of grief and loss)

diHa f rask = mind your head = mind your own business

Ras al Hanut = the head of the shop = the name of the mystery mixture of spices found at almost any shop or spice vendor

3mel b rasu / dir b rasu = to do in the head = to play or act, faking it

dyal rasu = of the head = independent, free, to do what one wishes

fiq m3a l-rasu = woken up/gotten up with the head = sharp, astute, observant, discerning, shrewd

rasu xfif = light head = to be intelligent, quick-witted

rasu tqil = slow/heavy head = to be dense, slow-witted

rfed r-ras m3a = to give a hard time to / to be prejudiced against

3la r-ras u l-3in = on the head and the eye = you’re more than welcome, gladly/with pleasure

ras l-3am = head of the year = New Year’s Day.

And these are a couple that I’m not sure of the literal meanings for, but I know the common-use meanings:

Hdi rask = Be careful

Tlq rask = Hurry up

This isn’t a complete list, of course. Do you know any more? Add your “ras” phrases in the comments below. And thalla f raskum. 🙂

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie


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