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The Carletonian

What’s the Arabic Word for Immature?

<n for Carleton’s present and future Professors of Arabic:

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to teach any male students the Arabic word for “cake.”

As a disclaimer, I have never taken Arabic, and the Arabic words I write here were all “Googled.” On Monday afternoon in the Math Skills Center, I overheard a meeting for a group working on a movie project for their Arabic class. Having been involved in that sort of writing process for a foreign language class a couple of times, I understand the limitations placed on narrative due to not having a native speaker’s vocabulary. Sometimes the word you want isn’t one that you know, or understand how to use. So it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the narrative of the movie to suffer somewhat from this. What’s not reasonable to expect is that c*ck jokes will be the focus of the script. Based on context, I gathered that the Arabic word for “cake” sounds exactly like the English word “cock” (meaning “rooster,” but also slang for a phallus).

“Ka’ak,” or “kaak,” in an Arabic context refers to “several different types of baked goods.” So it makes sense that building a story around someone wanting a bigger “ka’ak” is hilarious, especially if you’re twelve years old and get the giggles from saying naughty words. I’ll admit, when I learned so many years ago that the German word for “fat” is “dick” (spelled and pronounced just like that), I rode the roller coaster of penis jokes for a few weeks. But I’m in college now, and even in middle school it wasn’t really that funny. Granted, maybe the Arabic students just recently learned the word “ka’ak,” but I find it hard to believe that the initial wave of humor hasn’t subsided. And the fact is, saying the word “ka’ak” in an Arabic context doesn’t have at all the same meaning as it would in English. If those students aren’t separating themselves from the connotations of certain Arabic words in English, then they are failing to immerse themselves in the language fully. Without doing that, their learning will always be fragmented.

I could have let this slide and rested comfortably, knowing that they were idiots, were it not for the homophobic behavior that followed. Apparently it wasn’t enough to make immature penis jokes, but the (male) students also wanted to include several stereotypically gay characters in their movie. Phrases like “he loves the ka’ak” and “how much ka’ak do you want?” could, of course, only be done justice by a male character with a strong lisp. The students argued about who would play the gay character, pejoratively accusing one or another of being more “gay,” and thus better fitting the character’s description. Eventually, unable to work on my homework without being distracted by my own incredulity, I relocated.

Being 20 years old, and especially at Carleton, I’m surprised by the juvenile and offensive behavior that is perpetuated every day. Those students seemingly didn’t care who overheard their loud, inappropriate statements, which they took for humor. It’s one thing to notice that the Arabic word for “cake” and the English slang for “penis” sound the same, but it’s entirely another to inform everyone else. By repeating their knowledge of this fact tastelessly, those students were only informing everyone of their ignorance.

–Scott Donaldson is a second-year student.

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