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Khiyaar chambar
"Persian" words in the English language

By Mansoureh Haqshenas & Koorosh Bayat
June 28, 1999
The Iranian

- What are you scribbling?

- Nothing...

- Nothing? It's the third time you've written down something on that notepad in the past 20 minutes. What's so interesting about Star Trek?

- Nothing, really.

- ...

- (Starts taking down notes again.)

- May I see that notepad for a second? I'm really curious.

- I'm just writing down words with Persian roots commonly used in English. This guy at work challenged me to find 100 words.

- Fascinating... So how many have you got so far?

- About fifty.

- Like what?

- Algebra...

- Aziz I think that's Arabic.

- Close enough.

- What else?

- Chemistry comes from kimiyaa-gari...

- Are you sure?

- Sure I'm sure. Daughter is actually dokhtar, mother is maadar, father is pedar -- or "padre" is Spanish -- , brother is baraadar, door is dar, car is khar...

- Car is what?

- Khar.

- How do you figure? (Chuckles)

- Well donkeys have been used for transportation throughout human history. Naturally the word car has its roots in khar.

- (Laughing) Aziz are you sure?

- Well what else could it be? Besides the best selling van in America is the Dodge Caravan. And guess where "caravan" comes from?

- Okay... what else?

- Mouse is mush, cow is gaav, god is khodaa, devil is div, satan is shaytaan...

- I think shaytaan is Arabic too.

- Well what's wrong with Arabic? Mageh maa mosalmoon nisteem?

- Aareh maa kheyli mosalmoonim! What else?

- Cobra is kobraa - I know, that's Arabic too -- cucumber is khiyaar chambar.

- ...! Boro baabaa to ham... You can't be serious... khiyaar chambar! (laughs)

- I'm damn serious... provider is parvardegaar...

- ...?

- Pajamas is paa jaameh, pershing is pershang -- actually that's a Kurdish word -- kabab is kabaab...

- Zahmat keshidi! And gormeh sabzi is qormeh sabzi!

- Elephant is fil, jewelry is javaaher...

- Arabic, Arabic!

- Wrong, wrong! "Fil" is the arabized version of the Persian "pil" and "javaaher" is the Arabic for "gowhar".

- Impressive! You obviously have sources for your claims.

- What sources? It's common sense! Could nanny be anything other than naneh? Does anyone need proof to show gas and gaaz -- and gooz, for that matter -- are related?

- ... !

- Khaki pants owe their name to the word "khaak" and congress comes from kongereh...

- Let's say you do come up with a hundred "Persian" words. So what?

- It shows how much the West owes its civilization to US!

- It does? How's that?

- It just does!

- Do you really need this to feel okay with yourself?

- My culture and heritage do bring a sense of pride, yes. Nothing wrong with that.

- No, nothing wrong with that. But proving that cucumber comes from khiyaar chambar is not going to show how "civilized" we are. What if we were Chinese and there were no Chinese words in English? Baayad saremoonono meezaashteem meemordim?

- But we aren't Chinese. We're Iranian and we have a great history.

- My point is we don't need to go to ridiculous lengths to associate ourselves with Cyrus the Great, Mohammad and Fatemeh, Zartosht, Hafez or the Shahnameh to prove we are just as civilized as Europeans and Americans.

- It helps, when some people look down on you.

- Screw them!

- ... !

- Anyway, whatever. Don't sulk. Read me some Rumi...

- Rumi?

- Yes, Rumi. I love Rumi, even more than Shakespeare.

- You mean Sheikh-e Pir? That was his real name, you know.

- ... ! (Sigh)

* Mansoureh Haqshenas & Koorosh Bayat's index of articles

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