A clumsy learner’s adventures: 7+ funny Turkish words

Here we go again. Back to the basics. It is not a secret that learning Turkish is a demanding job, needing a lot of your time, energy and… imagination. You must commit yourself with all your heart and mind. Unless you want to end up in a “complicated relationship” lasting forever and ever. Which, by the way, is still better than nothing.  Anyway, don’t despair! Besides all the sweating and frustration, learning Turkish can be fun! It depends on your perspective. When you feel you had enough and your brain cells are about to throw up all the Turkish they had stored, instead of looking glumly at your learning materials, take a deep breath and laugh your head off. Think about those Turkish words or expressions that make you giggle. Here’s my short list of funny words/ expressions. Hope to make you(r day) brighter 😉

  1. Piliç çevirme ~ What could you ask for more as a yabancı when you get both chicken (piliç) and translation (çevirme). And no, this meal is not a “translated chicken”, is grilled chicken, another meaning of çevirme being grill on a turning device.

    Photo: Pizza Gold

    Photo: Pizza Gold

  2. Mısır~ I don’t know about you but Mısır is on my holiday bucket list. One day I will visit this amazing country. No, I’m not talking about the land of corn (mısır). I don’t even like mısır (corn) that much! I’m talking about the land of pyramids, Egypt (Mısır). You got it! Turks use the same word for Egypt and corn.  Not so weird if we consider the fact that Türkiye in English is called turkey (animal). So what Turks have to do with turkeys and Egyptians with corn? But wait, there is more:
  3. Hindistan ~ Hindistan is the Turkish word for India. Nothing strange at the first sight, right? Wouldn’t be weird at all if the stem of the word weren’t hindi, which means turkey in Turkish. So India is another turkey, should we call it Turkeystan? 🙂
  4. Batman ~ Turks have their own Batman, or maybe Batman’s hometown is in Turkey. In South-Eastern Turkey there is a city called Batman, and guess what, there is also a Batman University. But I really doubt they are going to teach you fighting techniques.  Batman
  5. Şeftali ~ the fifth word is actually peach, which means şeftali in Turkish, a word you must learn, unless you want to get on people’s nerves, shock them or cause laughter. You probably wonder why, peach is an inoffensive word, right? Not in Turkish. If you read Elif Şafak’s bestseller novel Baba ve Piç (The Bastard of Istanbul), you already got the point. If no, never too late for a great novel. 😉 Piç pronounced as the English peach means bastard, having just like in English negative connotations, used often as a curse. If you ask me, there’s nothing more stupid than calling someonepiç/bastard. Why this word should be offensive? A child who’s parents didn’t get married or who doesn’t have a father is not a shame, is a child, an innocent child, judged by some societies. But that’s another story. Let’s get back to our list!

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu's

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu’s

  6. Pis ~ pronounced as the English peace, means dirty in Turkish. Although many Turkish people do know the meaning of peace, using it could get you into funny situations.
  7. Canı istemek ~ “to want”. This expression is a little bit confusing for a non-Turk, as the expression is literally translated as “the spirit/heart wants” (can means “life”, “spirit”, “heart” while istemek means “to want”). For example a Turkish song says: Canım seninle olmak istiyor = I want to be with you, lit. my heart wants to be with you. Nothing weird, right? But I can’t say the same about Canım elma istiyor ~ I want apple. lit. my heart wants apple. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but still…

+some words for Romanian speakers:

  1. Tembel ~ lazy, in Romanian means stupid. So you could guess the look on my mother’s face when one of my Turkish friends jokingly called me tembel 🙂
  2. Cem ~ a common Turkish name which in Romanian (written as gem) means jam. At least it’s sweet 😉
  3. Murat ~ Turkish name, in Romanian means pickled. I guess is not very pleasant to be called like something preserved in vinegar or salt water. But for sure is funny. 😉
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