The beautiful heartfelt words we communicate with unconsciously on daily basis are a true treasure of the Lebanese and Arabic language. It’s that manner of communication that brings a certain flavor to our relationships and how we use wholehearted words to express certain ideas.
Smallah, a slang Arabic term and abbreviation for the expression bi ism Allah (in the name of God), is often accompanied by pinches on the cheek and “you’re getting big” comments. Smallah is often used in praise of a baby, a child, something that has positive attributes, or to something or someone that has grown. It is used to show joy and praise, and is evoked upon hearing good news, but also means “hold the envy” and “save the evil eye.” Smallah is a beautiful habit to protect against the sin of envy when someone is complimenting someone on their children or possessions.
It is amazing how something so complex, expressing both adoration and lack of spite, can be encompassed in one word. “Smallah” is a generic term really and can be used in various circumstances. It can be said as “Smallah 3leik,” meaning literally in the name of God on you. The term, like most Lebanese expressions, can be both endearing and a very lackadaisical approach to donate irony, because truly, irony runs in our veins.
- “smallah 3leik, shou na2ssak ma fik trouh djiba” (God’s name upon you, what’s lacking in you not to be able to go and get it) when a person asks someone to go and get something for them and gets a “no I can’t get it sorry”.
- “smallah 3leik shou kabran, sirit shabb” (God’s name upon you, you’ve grown so much. You’re a young man now).
Smallah is one of those expressions that are a paragon of social communiqué underlining layers of societal etiquette and general believes that have been carried through from generations’ past. It’s a true mirror of our social understanding of love, passion, and jealousy all concealed in that little simple abbreviated word.
That’s just how we are, we love and appreciate things and people to such an extent that we fear our own appreciation of them can be to such a degree that it can hurt the object of our attention, a very Arab tragedy indeed!