Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Holidays, Pancakes, and Pronunciation

Hereabouts we have just launched into celebrating the Eid al-Fitr, the festival the marks the end of Ramadan. It's a good time for all, with (more) feasting, a return to daytime eating and drinking, and generally lots of going out, hanging out, and (respectable) carrying on.

To an English speaker, it's a bit of a challenge, pronunciation-wise. "Eid" is clear enough, with foreigners getting away with "eed" even though the "ei" actually stands in for the dreaded "ain", a letter the sound of which has no direct English parallel and which in the wrong hands can sound like a cat having its neck wrung ("ain" is responsible for much of the off-key nasal harshness that pops up with some Arabic speakers). "Fitr" is more troublesome, as there is, ideally, no vowel sound at all between the last two letters.

Thanks to a cranky and difficult colleague of days gone by, Mr. Muscato and I tend to giggle inappropriately when friends try to use the holiday's full name. This gentleman was the kind who makes one wonder why Americans ever think of venturing overseas: pompous, condescending, and extremely thick, all at once. He felt it necessary, one year, to gather the full staff of many nations together at our place of work to give us a little greeting before, grudgingly, sending us off on the long Eid break.

Throughout his turgid remarks, he might have wondered why they were being greeted with muffled coughing, muttering, and finally outright giggling. Fortunately (or not) he considered all of us, of whatever nationality, as at best The Staff and at worst The Natives, and simply went away, leaving the rest of us to fall about at his having, over and over, talked about the "Aid el Fateer" - turning the coming few days from "the feast at the end of fasting" to "the feast of pancakes," which in Arabic - trust me - is far funnier than the nearest English equivalent, which I suppose would be nattering on about "Christ's mask" or something like that.

But, in any case, we've, in the words of Ms Ciccone-Penn-Ritchey, made it through-oo-oo, and our little Sultanate is more or less closing down for the holiday's duration - the papers stop printing, offices are abandoned, and only the nightlife starts to gear up, preparing for another busy season. And we get to eat breakfast when the good lord meant us to, in the morning, noonish at the latest, and not at six-something in the evening.

For those celebrating, a happy and blessed Eid!

1 comment:

  1. I picture a tiny little anthropomorphic bottle of Mrs. Butterworth syrup stifling a high, tiny giggle at the feet of all the staffers listening to the Feast of Pancakes speech.