Arabic Language Blog

Everyday (cultural) phrases in colloquial Egyptian Arabic: ‘Hope for the best’ (3) Posted by on Sep 26, 2018 in Arabic Language, Culture, Vocabulary

Welcome to the third and the last part of this blog post where we’re looking at a song called تفائلوا بالخير ‘wish for the best’ by the Egyptian singer Yasmin Ali. As mentioned in the first and second part of the blog, the song is interesting in terms of the several cultural phrases included in it. Over the last two weeks, we started by understanding the content of the song and also started looking at the first set of these phrases. In this part of the blog post, we’re going to start looking at the second set of the phrases.

From: Pexels

*First, here is the clip of the song that you need to watch so you can follow the lyrics below. You need to pay attention to the second half of the song/clip from 2:47 to 3:55 where the second set of phrases ca be heard.
*The clip can be find below, if you need to watch it again.

كلمات الأغنية
The lyrics:
إيه؟ .. إنت شايل هم ليه .. كل شيء مقدور عليه
اللي راح منك .. مسيره ييجي غيره و ترضى بيه
واللي فهم الدنيا دي .. شالها من تفكيره


اللي ربه كبير و ساتره .. مستحيل تكسر بخاطره
كل عبد وليه دفاتره وله ملايكة مقيدين


لو مشينا بحسن نية .. كله يسلم من الاذية
عيشوا حبة بإنسانية.. مين بياخد رزق مين


>> Here are the second four phrases (underlined in the lyrics above) with literal translation and how they are pronounced:


  • كل شيء مقدور عليه
Kol      she2     ma2door        ʕalee-h
Every  thing    managed        on-it
(Everything can be managed)


The phrase is said when someone is anticipating that something is going to be difficult and that they won’t be able to manage it. The main word, which can be a bit tricky for a learner, is that of the passive participle اسم المفعول  of ma2door مقدور  from the verb 2idir قِدِرْ (in Egyptian Arabic), meaning ‘he was able to’ to refer to the past of the verb ‘can’. Also, the attached pronounالضمير المتّصل  of ه  in عليه  refers to whatever the person is finding difficult, e.g. life’s problems.


  • كل عبد وليه دفاتره
kol        ʕabd      w       lee-h         dafatru-h
every   slave    and     has-him    boklets-his
(Everyone has his own story/circumstances)


The word slave here doesn’t literally mean ‘slave’ but an individual, instead. Also, ‘dafater’ here doesn’t actually mean books or booklets in the literal sense but it refers to someone’s story and destiny.


These two words only make sense if the religious references (in Islam) they are based on is taken into account. In terms of عبد , it’s wither used to refer to a worshipper (from the word worship عبادة ) or an individual who has devoted himself to Allah. The female equivalent to this is ama أَمَه


In terms of دفاتر  it metaphorically refers to the booklets in which angels ملائكة  write people’s destinies in as well as their deeds so they can be used later to judge the overall outcome of their lives and how well they did.


  • لو مشينا بحسن نية
law   mišee-na     b-Husn     niyya
if       walked-we    with-god    intention
(If we lead [our lives] with good intentions)


This  is an advice that people should always have intentions for other people so that all is spared the harm that may result from dealing with each other with bad intentions.


  • مين بياخد رزق مين
meen    bi-yaaxud    riz2                meen
who      takes           livelihood       whom
(Who takes the livelihood of another?)


Again, this phrase is based on a religious reference, that is the idea that everyone’s livelihood is allocated to him/her before even being born and that no one can take away what Allah bestowed on someone. This phrase is sued when someone is trying very hard to get something (particularly in terms of financial matters). The advice here is to relax as you will only get what Allah has allocated to you, nothing more.
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About the Author: Hanan Ben Nafa

Hi, this is Hanan :) I'm an Arabic linguist. I completed my PhD in Linguistics - 2018. My PhD thesis was entitled Code-switching as an evaluative strategy: identity construction among Arabic-English bilinguals. I'm also a qualified public service translator & interpreter.