The same text but in Arabic

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From the Twitter feed of @ShabanaMir1:

The line beneath the English says:  "the same thing that's written, but in Arabic" (nafs allī maktūb illā bi-l‘arabī) in colloquial Arabic, not Modern Standard Arabic.

Very nice, almost graceful, translation fail.


Selected reading

"Translate Server Error" (4/24/14) — source of the acronym "TSE"

"Honest but unhelpful" (7/1/08) — another instance of TSE

"Honest but unhelpful II" (10/31/08)

"A Bus to Don't Know" (9/6/10)

"Jackie Chan Campus Station" (4/10/15)


  1. Victor Mair said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 7:13 am

    From Roger Allen:

    It's in a weird transliterated colloquial.

    nafs illii maktuub, bas bi-l-`arabii

    (I'm using double vowels to indicate elongated vowels in the original).

    "The same as that which is written, but in Arabic"

  2. Victor Mair said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 9:07 am

    From Devin Stewart:

    Nafs illi maktuub bass bi-l-`arabi

    The same that is written but in Arabic

  3. Victor Mair said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 9:08 am

    From Joe Lowry:

    I had "illā" but that was my unconscious paraphrase–Devin's "bas" is correct, though the meaning is the same.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 11:00 am

    Unclear why both the original message and all comments are using transliterated Arabic — does the forum infrastructure not support embedded RTL languages, which would allow real Arabic script to be used ?

    A test —
    نفس الشيء مكتوب ولكن باللغة العربية
    End of test.

  5. Ben Zimmer said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 11:23 am

    From the same Twitter thread…

    (As another commenter notes, "'This is Japanese' — except, the kanji 語 is missing a stroke.")

  6. Alexander Browne said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 11:24 am

    Ikea apparently added this:

    I don't speak/read Arabic, but someone translated it roughly as "this is what happens when you don’t sleep/rest well”.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 11:25 am

    All the commenters are outstanding Arabic specialists. The use of Romanization is for the convenience of the vast majority of Language Log readers who are not conversant with the Arabic script. Furthermore, the Arabic on the window is colloquial, for which there is no standard standard script orthography.

  8. R said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 12:56 pm

    This is like a Bojack Horseman sign joke.

  9. Kristian said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 4:55 am

    In Finland it's a common joke to give an announcement in Finnish and then conclude by saying "och samma på svenska" (and the same thing in Swedish). (since Swedish is the country's other official language but one that most Finnish speakers don't know particularly well, while the Swedish speakers almost always know Finnish).

  10. Chris Button said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 9:43 pm

    Presumably, the whole thing was orchestrated by IKEA from the beginning then? Very clever.

  11. David C said,

    August 24, 2020 @ 10:30 am

    But which Arab vernacular is that sign in?

  12. A. Skrobov said,

    August 25, 2020 @ 12:36 am

    @David C

    The poster is from Amman

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