Nosegay of ‘Droit de Seigneur’

[fudīta bi-nafsī] puisses tu être racheté par mon âme ! (formule de politesse à l’époque classique) [“may you be redeemed by my soul!” (polite formula in the classical era)], Blachère, Grammaire de l’Arabe Classique, 1952.]

Consulting an Arabic dictionary involves looking up a word’s “root,” usually comprising three consonants. Words formed from the root are listed, with their translations, along with idioms in which the word occurs. What the root is may not be apparent on first blush, so lookup can entail a check of competing options. The roving linguist may glimpse, in passing, terminology that induces reflection. I wasn’t seeking it, for example, but I found [faDDa bakāra(t)a-hā], to deflower a girl.

[faDDa bakārata-hā]. to deflower a girl (Hans Wehr: A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, ed. J Milton Cowan, 2nd ed., 1966. It’s an “enlarged and improved version of Wehr’s Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart published in 1952, including the author’s supplement.

The verb [faDDa] means to break or force open. The dictionary calls [bakāra(t)] virginity; other sources list maidenhead and hymen. As I see it, the phrase could be read as “to break the hymen.” The literal Arabic is plainspoken, at least, whereas the florid tropes of “deflowering” and “virginity” affixed to the phrase in Western culture (French défloration, Spanish desvirgar, etc.) are synonymous with despoilment — the sullying of purity. Compare it to the cliché in which a mature woman who initiates a bashful young male may be credited with “making a man of him.”

On the other hand, there are pleasant surprises such as [lā fuDDa fūka], how well you have spoken!

[lā fuDDa fūka] how well you have spoken!

It’s a passive use of [faDDa] which, depending on your choice of variant, might be translated literally: “your mouth [muzzle, orifice, aperture, hole, vent, embouchure, mouthpiece…] was not broken open [pried, forced, undone, snapped, scattered, dispersed, perforated, pierced…]. If pressed to provide a tonal equivalent for it, I might venture a Texan idiom such as “You ain’t just a-woofin’.” It would take a feel for Arabic which I don’t possess to know whether it struck the right note.

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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