Please and thank you (and sorry), part V: please

We wrap up this series on everyday pleasantries (until I think of one I forgot) with the word “please.”

The most common and easiest way to say “please” is an Arabic import, لُطفا (luṭfan, “loht-fan”); from an Arabic root that means “to be kind,” it means “kindly,” as in لُطفا پَنجِره را باز کُنید (luṭfan panjirah rā bāz kunīd), “please (kindly) open the window.” Use it when you’re making a request.

Naturally there are other ways to say “please” for other contexts. We’ve already seen that خواهِش می کُنَم (khwāhish mī kunam) is one way to respond to “thank you,” but it can also be used in making requests; in fact, the phrase actually means “I request.” Use this for heftier requests, or you could use the polite (i.e., second person plural) form of the verb “to be able,” which is تَوانِستَن (tavānistan). The second person plural/polite form, in present tense, is می تَوانید (mī tavānīd). Since you’re using the polite form it’s almost as though the “please” is built into the request, like آیا می توانید انگلیسی صحبت کنید؟ (āyā mī tavānīd inglīsī ṣuḥbat kunīd), “could you please speak English?”

Finally, for when you’re not making a request so much as making an offer and encouraging the other person to accept (like, “please go ahead of me,” or “please take [whatever],” consider the verb فَرمودَن (farmūdan), which means “to command” but also “to favor,” or “to deign,” or “to be pleased.” The imperative, بِفَرمائید (bifarmāʾīd) thus means something like “be pleased” or “deign (to do something).”



I was remiss in not posting this earlier today, but in my defense I forgot. Actually I guess that’s not really a defense.

The holiday known as یَلدا (Yaldā) marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the point at which the days begin to get longer again until summer. The word یلدا derives from the Arabic root ولد (W-L-D), which mean “birth,” and here it refers to the annual “birth” of the sun as its time in the sky begins to lengthen once more. The holiday has other names, like زایِش مِهر (Zayishmihr), which literally means “birth of the sun” (مهر is one of several alternatives for “sun” in Persian), شَبِ یَلدا (shab-i yaldā) or “night of birth,” and شَبِ چِله (shab-i chillah) or “night of forty” (the number 40 in Persian is چَهَل or chahal, but چله in one context refers to the first forty days of winter).

Yalda is a relic of Iran’s Zoroastrian past, when it was identified as the birthday of the angelic divinity Mithra, who was exalted just below the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, and was identified with, though not identical to, the sun itself (مهر can also mean “Mithra,” making Zayishmihr “the birth of Mithra”). Ahura Mazda, Mithra, and the divine figure Apam Napat make up the “Ahuric Triad,” the worship of which was in fashion at some point in the development of Zoroastrianism, under the Achaemenids, though Ahura Mazda is set apart from the other two in Zoroastrian cosmology as the god, who is opposed by the evil force known as Ahriman. Any similarities that Mithra’s story might share with those of any other dieties you may hear about at this time of year is, of course, entirely coincidental, I’m sure. It is not an official holiday in Iran (the clerical leaders of Iran tend to frown on pre-Islamic holidays, and Yalda isn’t at the “don’t even think about touching this” level of Nowruz), but it is widely, if informally, observed nonetheless.

Chief among Yalda’s traditions is a large family dinner, including the traditional foods of the holiday: watermelon, pomegranate, nuts, and dried fruit. These foods are traditionally thought to have the power to protect the eater from the hassles and dangers of the summer months (insects and heat, mostly). People will frequently stay up all night or at least very late, possibly reading from the works of the great 14th century Iranian poet Hafez, telling stories, and dancing. Wine is frequently a part of the celebration as it is for so many Iranian festivals, in spite of the national ban on alcohol due to its prohibition in Islamic law (there is probably no disconnect between religious law and traditional culture in the world that is so great as Iran’s legal prohibition on wine).

So شَبِ یَلدا مُبارَک (shab-i yaldā mubārak, “Blessed Night of Yalda”) to you and yours!

Please and thank you (and sorry), part IV: forgive me

Sometimes a simple apology isn’t enough, let alone a simple “pardon me.” At those times you’ll need to talk the language of forgiveness. Fortunately for us, we’ve already done that. Remember بَخشیدَن (bakhshīdan)? Remember how بِبَخشید (bi-bakhshīd), its imperative form, can mean “pardon me”? Well, “pardon” being somewhat synonymous with “forgive,” بَخشیدَن also means “to forgive,” and that means that if you’re seeking forgiveness, بِبَخشید is the way to go. “Forgiveness” is بَخشِش (bakhshish), and one who is “forgiven” is بَخشیده (bakhshīdah, “to be forgiven” is بَخشیده شُدَن, bakhshīdah shudan). “I forgive you” would be شُما را می بَخشَم (shumā rā mī bakhsham).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, yes, there is also a way to do this with a borrowed Arabic word, but it’s far less common. Remember the Arabic root عَفا (ʿafā), from which we get the Arabic for “pardon me” and “you’re welcome”? Well, عَفو کَردَن (ʿafū kardan) combines that root with, yes, کردن, to give us a verb that also means “to forgive.”


In an effort to be more current with this blog, let’s talk about what’s currently bothering me right at this moment. “Hiccups” in Persian is سِکسِکه (siksikah), and “to have the hiccups” is سِکسِکه کَردَن (siksikah kardan), using our favorite auxiliary verb. “I have the hiccups” is سِکسِکه می کُنَم (siksikah mī kunam).

So that’s that. This was much easier than getting rid of these hiccups is proving to be.

Please and thank you (and sorry), part III: excuse me, pardon me

We’ve learned how to say you’re sorry, but sometimes you don’t need to go quite that far, you just need to say “excuse me” or “pardon me.” In that case consider the Persian verb بَخشیدَن (bakhshīdan), specifically the command form, بِبَخشید (bi-bakhshīd). This is the typical way to beg pardon in Persian, although grammatically it has the effect of kind of commanding that the other person pardon you, which itself seems like something for which you’d need to beg pardon.

Of course, as with many things Persian, there’s also a way to get at this problem using some borrowed Arabic. If you read my Arabic entry on this subject, you’d find that the root عذر (ʿaẕara) means “to excuse” or “to absolve,” and that someone who has been excused can be called مَعذور (maʿẕūr). مَعذور can be combined with a few Persian verbs; combined with داشتَن (dāshtan) it can mean “to excuse” (as in “to have an excuse”). The Arabic مَعذرَت (maʿẕrat), from the same root, is also sometimes used in Persian, particularly with the verb خواستَن (khwāstan) where it can also mean “to excuse,” in a phrase like مَعذرَت خواهی (maʿẕrat khwāhī); you might also see عذر خواهی (ʿaẕr khwāhī), although that shades closer to an apology.

I would stick to بِبَخشید if I were you.