Taş gibi: Of language mis-steps, traffic jams and hot Turkish women


Taş means stone in Turkish (Image from www.resimler.co)

Taş means stone in Turkish (Image from http://www.resimler.co)

Taş gibi.”  I heard this phrase a lot while two young Turkish American men were living in our house.  I never could quite get the context, as their voices would lower to decibels my old ears couldn’t decipher well.  This usually took place as these young men were checking out their possible future dates on Facebook, for example.

During these episodes, Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior would “hurumph!” her way out of the room – dragging her handmaiden Zenne (the nervous Nellie like a bowl of quivering jelly) out of the room at breakneck pace.  It reminded me of the goat-bleating sound of horror my grandmother made when I was in the unfortunate position of explaining to her the OTHER purpose for dental dams back in the days when I did HIV/AIDS prevention work with women.  I will not elaborate further.

But in any case, back to the term taş gibi.  I had learned early on that taş referred to “stone” and I remembered this as I knew someone with Taş in their last name.  It  had also been early on in my time with M. that I learned the term buz gibi,  which when translated directly means “as cold as ice.”  So, as I sat at the dining room table with these young men, I finally put it together – something is like stone.  “Horrible,” I though sadly, “that they are referring to these young women as being like stone – they should give them a chance – maybe they are just shy!” I never shared these views as I didn’t want to interfere with the brotherly good time that was going on at the table.  Boys will be boys and all – they got enough feminist propaganda from me anyway, I thought.  As I was thinking this to myself, pretty much the ENTIRE puppet troupe was cackling and howling, slapping their knees and falling all over themselves with a case of the contagious giggles.

Istanbul's Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in traffic (Image from Today's Zaman)

Istanbul’s Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in traffic (Image from Today’s Zaman)

After months and months of watchful attempts for moments in which the use of my newly understood phrase did not appear – I found my moment.  Gülay was very kindly going out of her way to give us a ride.  There we were, sitting in the thick, stalled Istanbul traffic, trying to get onto the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge (a.k.a. the “second bridge”) to cross the Bosphorus on the way to Sabiha Gökçen Havaalanı for our trip to Dalyan to visit the Archers of Okçular for the first time.  We were stuck, nothing was moving, minutes and minutes had gone by and the three young men and my husband in the back of the car had entirely demolished the sesame-covered simit that Gülay had bought from the vendor out of the window.  Feeling very proud of myself – I gestured around at the traffic with my right hand, and said with beaming pride “Taş gibi!”

Silence hit the car – and I began to blush.  I thought, perhaps my accent is bad, although M. tells me that it is not as do others, so, I said it again “Taş gibi! No?”.  Gülay looked at me with a sidelong glance.  “What is it you are trying to say?” she asked calmly, always gentle with me as she is (and for which I am grateful).

I explained through the blushing “the traffic….it’s, well, it’s stuck – you know – like stone!”  At this point the entire human and puppet population of the car began to guffaw as if there was no tomorrow. I didn’t know what to do with my face or hands – I knew that the horrible truth would be out in moments but that I just had to wait.

Taş gibi!” Gülay giggled, “M. you need to explain this term to your wife.”  Before M. could get there – one of Gülay‘s sons snorted out an explanation “it means a hot chick – you know – not super skinny – but with some meat on her bones – a real lady – not a thinspiration type!”

Here is what we are talking about:

This is what  taş gibi is all about! (Image from galeri.uludagsozluk.com)

This is what taş gibi is all about! (Image from galeri.uludagsozluk.com)

Finally, I had the freedom to laugh along with them.  And all agreed that indeed, the traffic could be described as Taş gibi as well!

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Gendered moments, Turklish Moments, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Taş gibi: Of language mis-steps, traffic jams and hot Turkish women

  1. Alan says:

    this post is a hoot – we’ve all had these moments of reddening realisation – Rumsfeldt moments – things you ‘know you know-know you don’t know-don’t know you know-don’t know you don’t know’!

  2. lizcameron says:

    Lol – thanks Alan! I still laugh every time I think about it! And it immediately sends M into a giggle! This kind of interaction happens between us often although it’s not often quite this embarrassing and/or funny. And says he thinks the whole book should be anecdotes such as this but I’m not sure that would be as interesting. It will certainly be part of it.

  3. Yes hilarious! I was trying to pull up this post on twitter today…so slow. And had to wait to read the rest. 🙂 One of my first language mis-moments involved mixing up corba with corap. So imagine ordering a nice bowl of corap at a restaurant. Not the same as your “taş gibi”, but still funny.

  4. thirdeyemom says:

    Ha ha great post! I hate it when things get lost in translation but it always does bring lots of laughs!

  5. Dalaman is centrally located in Turkey’s beautiful southwestern coastline that is flanked by the spectacular Mediterranean Sea, the pristine Aegean Sea & the seducing Greek Isles that lay just off the coast. To the east, you’ll find Gocek, Fethiye, Kalkan, Kas, Demre, Finike, & Antalya. To the west of Dalaman, you will find Dalyan, Bozburun, Mamaris, Datca, Koycegiz, Gokova, Oren, Bodrum, & Milas. There are ancient ruins that are located throughout this region, dating back thousand’s of years. Roman, Greek, & Byzantine empires have made their mark in this region at some point in history.

  6. What a lovely post. Yes, we’ve all been there with linguistic mis-steps, but this one is particularly sweet. You are amazing though the way you manage to pick up Turkish words and the correct accent– and one doesn’t learn a language unless you are willing to use it and make those mistakes. There are certain cultures that make it easier. It sounds like the Turks laugh with you rather than at you, and the Italians do that as well. Having spent some time in Paris, I can tell you the Parisiens don’t have much time to waste on people massacring their language (as I tend to do), and by making you feel stupid, they discourage one for trying to speak the language.

  7. Pingback: Ten Years, Ten Moments: Hacivad Bey Speaks | Slowly-by-Slowly

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