I grew up in the Great State of Texas. There were many benefits to such an upbringing, but one of the best was the learning of colorful phrases with which to describe situations and desires. Farmers, cowboys, oil men, and preachers have some interesting ways of saying things. So do their wives, though they are usually a tad more discreet with some of those colorful remarks.
One of my favorites was God willing, and the creek don’t rise. God and Lord could be interchanged, but the meaning stayed the same. This saying was used in a situation where someone was promising to do something, or be somewhere, and they wanted you to know they really meant it. Not to be confused with Knock on wood, which was the Texas equivalent of spitting three times to ward off a curse that might prevent you from doing what you said you were going to do.
Interestingly, the Arabs have similar sayings for both situations.
One of the most common phrases you’ll hear in Arabic is inshallah, which means, literally, “God willing.” People say this everyday. “I’ll see you tomorrow, inshallah.” “I hope you will feel better, inshallah.” “Make it home safely, inshallah.” In fact, I don’t think I’ve known too many days in KSA where I have not heard that phrase used.
Of course, one of the most common ways the phrase is used is when someone doesn’t want to insult someone by saying they don’t have a task done, or they don’t want to commit to a specific timeframe. “Yes, I’ll have that for you tomorrow, inshallah.” “One more day, inshallah.” “I’ll find someone to do that, inshallah.” One of the ways to get a smirk out of an Arab is to respond to a request and say, “Of course, inshallah.” They know what you are really saying, and they know you know what they are saying.
The other saying, which is sort of like Knock on wood, is mashallah. “No one will get sick before our trip, mashallah.” “Your children will grow up strong and smart, mashallah.” “Everyone will like dinner, mashallah.” The concept of warding of the evil eye and curses is just as alive here as it is anywhere else in the world, including the United States.
Superstition is superstition wherever you are, and even the idioms we use sometimes reflect the cultural superstitions we have…whether we acknowledge them or not.
I will keep an eye out for any other colorful phrases and report on them when I find them.