Know anyone expert in Arabic calligraphy?
Ever since the 9/11 attacks and after seeing so many pictures of Osama bin Laden I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind about what I would say if I’d ever had the opportunity to actually meet him. How would I first address him? What would I first say to him? What would be a good opener? In thinking about all this I hit upon a remark I’d overheard a very long time ago on the playground.
It’s often been said that we (the United States) are a nation of immigrants – and so it was on the playground of my youth. I went to a public school with an ethnically diverse group of children: we had a mix of Chinese, Irish, Polish, German, Italian, French, Hungarian, Serbian, Greek, Mexican, American Indian, etc., and many others that pretty much represented the whole of Europe, East to West and North to South. What we didn’t have were Portuguese, Eskimos and Negroes. India and especially Asia, both East and West, were absent as well.
On the playground and on the street we (children) all spoke good ol’ American English. The neighborhood households were a polyglot of mutually indecipherable tongues. Many of these second or third generation American children were bilingual by default as they had to both communicate with their parents at home and the rest of the world at large out on the street.
Being, as we were, an ethnically diverse lot, it sometimes showed up in our garb. I recall two children, on first meeting, standing pretty much face-to-face with each other and one saying to the other innocently and altogether objectively:
“Yer ma dresses you funny.”
This was a purely observational statement; it was made absent all malice and without insult or even a hint of a pejorative undertone. Simply a child’s wide-eyed observation.
It’s highly unlikely that I should ever meet Osama bin Laden; but I then thought to myself that I would like to make a t-shirt that read in Arabic calligraphy:
“Osama. Yer ma dresses you funny.”
Of course such a project would be fraught with difficulties in both translation and interpretation. It would be most difficult to truly capture the innocent intent of it. And how would one go about translating the dialectal yer (your); the diminutive ma (mother); and especially, how could one accurately capture the connotation of “funny” as being exotic or strange rather than humorous, inferior or perverse? And all this in elegant Arabic script?