Arabic Words for “Children”

Turns out I couldn’t resist reading Raphael Patai’s book the Arab Mind once I’d heard about it. I was confounded by an reviewer’s claim that Patai said there’s no Arabic word for “children.”
So I bought the darned book, and I’ll be damned, he did say that.
It’s hard to speak meanly of someone who, number one, is dead and who, number two, claims to be writing a book about people he’s fond of, but, come on. You don’t need to know much Arabic to learn the word atfal, which means children.
Patai seems to be acquainted with only the words awlad, which means boys, and banat, which means girls. Based on his imperfect knowledge, he draws the conclusion that boy and girls are regarded as completely different in Arab culture. A few pages later he mentions the English people who send their sons off to Eton, but doesn’t notice that the English evidently regard boys and girls as completely different.
Along with good old atfal, which is MSA, there are words in various dialects that mean children. My favorite one is the Iraqi word jihal, “the ignorant ones.”
If only the book were more readable. As it is, I’m grudgingly forcing myself to pick it up and read some here and there. I keep hoping to find more nuggets of funny.



Filed under arab, arabic, arabist, books, language

5 responses to “Arabic Words for “Children”

  1. DANI:D

    i still don’t get it.

    • In a nutshell: Ralph Patai wrote a book about Arabs as if he were an expert on the Arab culture. One thing he said is that there is no Arabic word for children. This reveals how little he knows, as there most certainly is an Arabic word for children. It is اطفال , atfal.
      This word is so basic that Mr Patai’s not knowing it throws all his claimed expertise into question.

  2. Anonymous

    u donot have information acording to arabic

  3. who i have so much information about arabic

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