How English words entered Arabic through the British empire in Iraq

The British “Mesopotamian Campaign” of the First World War took almost three years to get to Baghdad – and the occupying force faced many challenges once it arrived. In fact, Britain’s overwhelming predominance over Iraq from 1917 to 1947 was a time of rough and violent political and economic “communication”.

But the large number of English “loan words” in the Iraqi dialect of Arabic suggests that the communication was not always defensive. More importantly, the quality of borrowed words and the way they are twisted to fit Iraqi usage reflect the fact that Iraqis were fascinated by the language and culture of their occupiers, whom they ironically nicknamed “Abu Naji” after the commonly held belief that Iraqi monarch Ghazi bin Faisal had been murdered at the behest of the British by his driver, Abu Naji, in a faked car accident.

However, while I can clearly identify many words as English in origin – for example, biskit, tȏrch, rādīȏ, shȏrt – there are many other words altered enough to look like anything but English. These include timman, paicha, fuṣṣ glaṣṣ.

English loan words in the Iraqi dialect are found in almost all the aspects of daily life. Here I will focus on funny or unusual borrowings but first I will start with one in English.

Read more: Independent

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