|Dear Athila, Khaled Hassan, and
Thank you for your intuitive responses re: the
Credit Card thread, which inspired me to write the following
It is about an expression introduced by Athila: `ala
ra'suh riyshah; and an allusion to the ultra RICH
by Khaled Hassan. Both cases inadvertly conspired to create the following
unexpected linguistic link. I hope you will enjoy it:
Let's start with Athila's expression: (`ala
ra'suh riyshah): This is a common expression used in
the Egyptian vernacular. It is a remark carrying a sarcastic tone,
often referring to those who enjoy privileged status and/or abundance of
wealth symbolized in the Arabic culture by a feather in one's cap.
In this case, the individual believes that he/she
is literally entitled to get away with doing something wrong. Hence,
the common phrase : Immal ya Biyh `ala ra'suh
Translated as: Of course, it is all on account of the
feather in his/her cap or head.
The placing of a feather in a hat has been symbolic
of achievement that has arose in several cultures, some believe that
this occurred apparently independently. For example an English writer
and traveller, Richard Hansard recorded in his "Description of Hungary",
in 1599 the following:
"It hath been an antient custom among them [Hungarians]
that none should wear a fether but he who had killed a Turk, to whom
onlie yt was lawful to shew the number of his slaine enemys by the
number of fethers in his cappe."
Another version is said to originated with the British
forces in the American War of Independence, in an attempt to mock
the revolutionary militia. A doodle was 18th century British slang
for simpleton (a.k.a. noodle). Macaroni was slang for a dandy or fop. This
originated with the Macaroni Club, which was a group of London aesthetes
who were anxious to establish their sophistication by demonstrating
a preference for foreign cuisine. The thinking behind the theory
is that the Yankees were so stupid as to believe that putting a feather
in one's cap would make them appear fashionable. Hence, the children's
rhyme Yankee Doodle is the best-known use of the phrase:
Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his cap,
And called it macaroni.
Please, don't believe this spaghetti anecdote, nor
the other gruesome tale referring to the number of slain Turks corresponding
to the number of feathers stuck in the Hungarians' cap.
Now, we will touch upon Khaled Hassan's remark about
the ultra RICH.
Here we find the development of the true etymology
of the term RICH.
The expression first appeared in Classical Arabic
in the Qur'an (suwrat al-A`raf v. 26). The term in question
originally meant "feather" but in the Qura'nic verse
it also refers to the state of being RICH!
Yes, RICH - pure and simple!
For your edification, I have put together the various
meanings of the terms RICH/ RIYSH side by side, both in English
and Arabic illustrated in a JPEG. These terms are based on the Lisan
Lane's English/Arabic Dictionary, along with
the corresponding terms in the Oxford English Dictionary. You be
I also added below the various erroneous hypothetical
etymologies which attribute the term "rich" to Old French
(of Germanic origin). I guess in the world of some etymologists
everything can be make to appear real if they garnished their theories
with fancy fairy tales.