Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Straw Road

Every time I come to Dellys, in between all the visiting and swimming, I find myself marvelling at the full linguistic resources of colloquial Algerian Arabic, and learning new words and constructions; this time is no exception. I've been typing some of these up, and plan to post them on my sporadic Internet visits.

One of my aunts taught me a new Darja term the other night - triq əttbən طريق التبن, the Milky Way, literally the Road of Straw. In the old days before there were clocks, people used to tell a prayer time by it: when it first became visible in the sky, they would go pray `Isha. That test may not work so well in modern city environments, but Dellys is still dark enough at night that you would probably get it about right. She also mentioned nəjmət əl`iša نجمة العشاء and nəjmət əlməġrib مجمة المغرب (the `Isha and Maghrib stars), which would presumably be Venus and Mercury respectively. I'll have to look into the rest of the astronomical terminology sometime, if I can find anyone who knows it.

4 comments:

Antonio Giménez said...

Just in case you did not know, Lameen: طريق التبن is called درب التبانة in many Arab countries. There is even a film by this name, by Palestinian director Ali Nasser.

ACW said...

I will guess, based on almost no data, that the `Isha and Maghrib stars are both Venus, depending on whether it appears in the morning or evening skies.

Mercury is hard to spot, and is rarely bright and distinct enough to be a salient timekeeper.

Both Venus and Mercury divide their time between morning and evening skies almost equally. Venus, for example, has just left the evening sky and will become more and more prominent just before dawn over the next few weeks.

David Marjanović said...

Venus is "the morning star" and "the evening star" all over Standard Average European, AFAIK.

Lameen Souag said...

I didn't know درب التبانة, actually - thanks. ACW, your suggestion seems plausible; I'm not honestly sure I know anyone who could check it, though.