Dictionaries, Strawberries and Putridities


TBE is quite busy today reporting out a story with the potential to shake up the whole Boursa, and which will surely have reverberations throughout downtown and the world.

We have, however, collected a couple tips and tidbits for our readers, and commissioned an editorial on an urgent matter of public health.

AUC Bookstore news:

The AUC bookstore on the Main Campus, long a favorite of TBE’s, is relocating to another building, also “on the Main.” Bookstore sources told TBE that the new location will be even more spacious than the current premises, with more books than ever, thus cementing its status as Cairo’s best English-language bookstore.

TBE can also report exclusively that the bookstore is currently stocking a few copies of Martin Hinds’ and El-Said Badawi’s magisterial A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic, whose rarity is matched only by its superiority to all other Egyptian colloquial Arabic dictionaries. Although a bit expensive at LE 395, the book retails for $250 on Amazon, with no used copies available. Interested parties should make a beeline for the bookstore, as the dictionary does not appear on the market very often.

Muhammad Ali Juice Shop (Midaan Falaki):

Muhammad Ali’s strawberry juice is not to be missed. Despite the fact that strawberry season ended a while ago, Mr. Ali or his employees had the foresight to freeze a large quantity during that briefest of interludes when they were available. The result is the most refreshing respite from a hot day that downtown currently has on offer, all for only LE 2. The shop is located next to Mo’men and the Yemeni Coffee Shop on the square.


Unconfirmed reports indicate that this band performs regularly at the juice shop.

Guest Editorial from TBE’s Juice Correspondent, A. Frawlawi:

Is that juice shop on Qasr al-Aini next to the police outpost and roughly across from the Shura Council not revolting? My colleagues and I at TBE have never, of course, had a glass of juice there, but the stench of rotten oranges, which wafts for at least three storefronts in either direction and is perhaps the cause of the apparent moribundity of the nearby African Writers’ Union, is enough to give one a sour stomach just by walking past. One might be forgiven for thinking that the only reason the shop has any customers at all is because the obviously fermented juice has some alcohol content, potentially corrupting the morals and decision-making processes of youths and legislators alike. TBE hereby calls on all relevant parties to take immediate action against this grave olfactory offense.



Filed under Books, Downtown, Drinks, Health and Fitness, Reviews

9 responses to “Dictionaries, Strawberries and Putridities

  1. Benjamin Geer

    I saw a few copies of the Hinds and Badawi dictionary at Al-Shorouk bookshop in Tal’at Harb Square the other day. Yes, it’s a masterpiece of lexicography, but like its equally illustrious cousin the Hans Wehr dictionary, it sorely needs updating. Why are we still using dictionaries from the 1970s when other languages get updated dictionaries every year?

    • nottooshaabi

      With regards to Hinds and Badawi, our guess is that it is not and probably never will be a profit-making venture, so any update will have to be funded by the AUC, US AID or other government entities, private foundations or some combination thereof, along with the availability and interest of however many Arabic linguists it takes to update the dictionary.

      As for Hans Wehr, our guess is that any students who feel that it is insufficiently complete is probably advanced enough to use Arabic-Arabic dictionaries, which presumably are updated more frequently.

      Finally, while interest in studying Arabic in the US (and probably elsewhere) has increased exponentially, the number of students still pales in comparison to the number of students studying more “traditional” foreign languages. Thus their dictionaries get updated more often because they have higher sales and no single dictionary has monopoly power in the market, as does Hans Wehr.

      • Benjamin Geer

        I’ve used monolingual Arabic dictionaries, too, like المعجم الوسيط, but actually my impression is that they tend to be even more out of date than the Hans Wehr, and that their concept of lexicography is even more old-fashioned (e.g. they’re less aware of the need to define expressions as well as single words). The specialised dictionaries of technical terms (which all seem to be bilingual) are often more up-to-date, but I think they very often reflect wishful thinking rather than real usage. And it’s a pain to have to buy 15 different Arabic dictionaries to get the equivalent of what you’d find in, say, the Collins-Robert French-English/English-French dictionary in a single volume (and now in electronic form on a single DVD).

        I think the economic argument is a bit of a Catch-22. Maybe the lack of good dictionaries and learning materials for Arabic is part of the reason why fewer people learn Arabic than French: many of those who try get discouraged and give up because the publishing industry isn’t providing the resources they’ve come to expect when studying a language.

        My dream would be to see an electronic Arabic dictionary combining Modern Standard Arabic and dialectical Arabic in a single computer program. You’d look up a word and it would tell you that it means X in MSA (and is used in these 20 expressions), Y in Egyptian dialect (with 20 more expressions), etc.

        • nottooshaabi

          A few things:

          1) If you’d like to become TBE’s dictionary review correspondent we’d be more than happy to have you, and many students of Arabic would surely be interested in reading your thoughts on various dictionaries.

          2) We think the reason more people study these languages is probably structural, at least in the US. Almost every high school offers French and Spanish, so it’s natural for students to proceed on that track. Schools that do offer Arabic are usually located in areas with large immigrant populations from Arabic-speaking countries. We highly doubt that students decide not to pursue language study based on the quality of teaching materials. TBE is only now, probably at an intermediate/advanced intermediate level bumping up against the limitations of readily available dictionaries.

          3) With found your suggestions about what an ideal dictionary would look like very interesting, and thought the best way to go about it, at least in the short term, would be to set up a wiki where anyone could submit words not found in the common dictionaries (Hans Wehr and Hinds and Badawi), ideally in context. Arabic linguists or translators could then provide translations for these new words, building up a corpus that could eventually form the basis of a new dictionary or an update on the older ones. TBE is sure we know a couple people who could and possibly would be interested in providing the translations and technical help in setting up a wiki, and we’re sure you do to. If you’re interested in pursuing this project, please contact TBE using the “Contact TBE” page above.

  2. “Is that juice shop on Qasr al-Aini next to the police outpost and roughly across from the Shura Council not revolting?”

    Are you talking about the juice place called Omar?

    • nottooshaabi

      We’re not sure of the name since we always keep our heads down and attempt auto-asphyxiation while passing, but it probably is the same one as there is, to our knowledge, only one juice shop on the stretch of Qasr al-Aini between Sheikh Rihan and the gas station.


  3. It has wicked Tamr Hindi. And it doesn’t smell!

    • nottooshaabi

      Must not be the same place then. TBE will check next time one of our correspondents is in the area.

  4. Benjamin Geer

    Thanks, that all sounds like lots of fun, but I think that if I go down that path, I’ll never finish my PhD. I’ll put it on my ever-growing list of big, tempting projects to get involved in once my thesis is done.

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