The uses of zereshk
July 1, 2004
A friend of mine who lives in Iran - let's call her
Sarah - brought me a packet of zereshk as a gift the other
week. It had a little worm in it. I was touched and slapped my
chest in pride: "A worm from the soil of my motherland! Worm
from the land of my forefathers!" Kylie, an Australian friend,
was not impressed: "Ughh, is that a worm?" Hey, I went
to explain, this humble worm is far healthier than all the sprays
and detergents supermarkets use to keep their salad packs "fresh".
It's no artificial additive. It is organic and from the same
earth that inspired Khayyam's immortal: "See that earthen
pot? / that's you, that is"; "See that clay jug?
/ that's your grandpa"; "See that dusty track?
/ you will be the dust." (Most household goods, however,
owe more now to oil than soil). And of course forests - "This
wooden desk on which sits your PC / not long ago was an oak tree." Khayyam,
were he around today, would surely be a green poet: "This
pine you batter with Black & Decker / once heard the patter
of a woodpecker.")
I sent Sarah an e-mail to thank her for her present:
Subject: The uses of zereshk
In Persian it means barberry. It is the language's equivalent
"How much do they pay you?"
"What did your ex bring you from Iran?"
It is also used to denote the ridiculousness of an offer
"You live in --- "
Hmm. I can give you a ride to Ealing Common you can catch the Tube."
"Zereshk! Go to the station yourself and send my regards."
As a general exclamation it is a substitute for the European
"Hmphf!" We don't say "Hmphf!" but we say "zereshk".
daashtan" (to have worms), on the other hand means to have
mischievous intent: "You fed my cat chilli sauce! Magar
kerm daaree? (You got worms?)"
Sarah wrote back to say she was having
trouble "burning" a DVD of recently banned film The
Lizard she had brought back with
her. "It's such poor quality," she said. Many
films are, I assured her, but that's no reason to burn them.
"Not burn as in burn", she said, "burn as in burn." The
word of course has come to mean copy. Imagine if the opposite
"Mum! I copied my fingers?"`
"No, the toaster."
Meanings I had registered for burn until this
i) n. effect of contact with hot object or fire.
ii) vb. setting fire to someone's property.
iii) vb. setting fire to someone.
iv) vb. selling parsley to someone who thinks they are buying
v) (cf. adj. burnt: one who has been sold parsley instead
This happened to me once when I was a student. If only the street
vendor had been more honest and instead of "skunk-weed, skunk-weed" had
whispered "basil, coriander." This might have lost
him custom and no little street cred, but at least he would be
left with integrity. It's the same with Iraq - a bit
of transparency would leave the warmongers a little credibility.
Instead of all this talk about freedom and getting rid of Saddam
for the people they should come clean: "There were no weapons
of mass destruction, we lied and bombed this country for its oil
and now we are going to screw it into the ground. As for democracy: