You need to learn Street Farsi to make it
By Assal Badrkhani
May 1, 2002
It struck me as I was reading "Kotlet?"
and taking a long-awaited trip down memory lane that not too many Iranians who have
been living abroad for the past whatever many years it has been, know much about
the world of "Javads and Jamilehs".
I in no way mean to sound as if I am an authority on this subject. Being the Americanized
cousin from the Great Satan, there is a lot of words and phrases I don't get explained
to me. It's as if a new street culture has been born in Tehran and if you try to
comprehend it without the services of a good translator, you might fall into oblivion
and be lost forever.
Ever since I was born, from the exact moment that my eyes began interacting with
the light and my ears became sensitive to the slightest sounds, I am absolutely certain
that my parents began to teach me Farsi. And what could I do but soak it all in?
Thanks to all the practice, I ended up without an American accent. Luckily I am not
one of those kids who sounds like a foreigner in her own country (Thank God).
Well, then my parents decided if I was to be a perfect Iranian, I would also have
to learn to read and write in Farsi. That was the second phase of my growth and after
a few years of Farsi lessons, I passed with flying colors. This was all a big boost
to my self-esteem. Whenever we would go home for the summer, I could talk to everyone,
I could read street signs and newspapers, and I could write letters home in Farsi!
I don't know exactly when things changed, but somewhere
along the way, a couple of years ago, Farsi wasn't enough. You had to learn Street
Farsi to make it in Tehran. The number one word I have learned and studied and researched
is "Javad". (If your name is Javad, please do not take offense, because
I am sure the coining of this term had nothing to do with you personally).
Javad is a word of many faces, colors, shapes, sounds, etc. For example, a fashionably-challenged
homeboy with a poofy hairstyle and umbrella pants has a great chance of being inducted
into the Javad Hall Of Fame. The music of people like Jalal Hemmati who sings, "Mahvash,
Parivash, Ghalat kard, Shoohar kard...", is definitley Javadish!
That song is their literal holy book, their code of honor, and their constitution
all rolled into one. It's the top requested song at all Javadi dance contests and
it's the music that inspires little girls and boys to talk like a weirdo, look like
a weirdo, and dance like a weirdo. It may sound like good, clean fun but what it's
really doing is subliminally telling your kid, "Javad is the only way to be..."
And your kids are listening, believe me. The streets can give you visual evidence!
Next, there is "tick-zadan", or as we know it, harmless (and sometimes
not harmless) flirting. Now, this tick-zadan is very interesting to me, not because
it reminds me of lice, but because it reminds me of all the strange rituals of implicit
flirtation that you find in city streets. A girl could be walking down a street,
shopping with her mother, and a hundred phone numbers and one-liners can be thrown
at her before she reaches the next streetlight.
How about "Akhareshe"? I know you must have heard that one. It's rather
old, because even my mom knows about it. Akhareshe, or "Endeshe", as the
coolest Iranian kiddies call it, means the supreme, the extreme, "the top of
My dad videotaped the bazaar for me one year when I couldn't go to Iran and a major
Javad came up to him and said, "Agha, az manam film begeer." And in the
camera, my dad said, "Assal, bebin Iran che pesarhaaye khoshteepi daare."
And the guy smiled his crooked smile with his front tooth missing and with all the
confidence and bravado in the world, he said, "Akharesham!"
This is the most wonderful point about Javads: they either don't know it or are proud
of it. Having an air of Javadiness about you can give you a very unreal sense of
superiority. Your self-esteem is never in question because no one is waiting to put
Even cool, dope, hip teens are into the Classic Javadi dance rituals. There is not
one mehmooni I have ever gone to with my cousins where people didn't take part in
a Javadi Dance-off. Of course, the Kotlet is the hottest move.
One last word and I truly must end this or else I could go on forever and create
a new dictionary for you... "Khafani" is a good word to know and using
it is easy because it makes sense in every sentence and every situation. A huge banana
split can be khafani and so can a new Benz. The Matrix was khafani because
it was a cool movie, but hairy armpits can be khafani because their gross. Khafani
is a word with endless possibilities, so use it wisely.
I hope I didn't give anyone a sar-dard. Bye now!