I’d like to thank all of the blog’s readers for following along this year and contributing to a wonderful discussion. I’m looking forward to what will certainly be a momentous 2010: municipal elections, disintegrating alliances, potential progress on the Syrian-Israeli peace talks, more tail-chasing on abolishing confessionalism, and a few more Guinness world records.
I leave you with a little philological excursus on the meaning of “bistraynti `alayk”, the traditional greeting that every Lebanese kid learns to scream at the top of his/her lungs on New Year’s morning. I’ve always wondered about the etymology of this term, and I recently stumbled upon an intriguing theory. If anyone can confirm or refute it (paging my friend Ahmad…), please weigh in.
Happy New Year’s!!!
In Lebanon, and I am told that it is also the case among Christians in Jordan and Syria, we have a traditional new year’s greeting:
we say: bistraynte @layk/ @layke/ @laykon etc.
What this greeting means is that my *bistrayne* (i.e. new year’s gift) is on you, [so] you have to give me the gift.
One has to be quick so as to get the others to give the gift.
Anis Frayha explains the term as being connected with the Roman goddess Strenae, to whom he says people gave gifts on the new year.
[QN: Actually, the goddess’s name is Strenua; the word “strenae” refers to the gifts that Romans exchanged on January 1st]
I have had a hard time finding an etymology for this term. Frayha’s explanation seems to be acceptable, but what do we do with the initial *b* in *bistrayne*.
One possibility culd be to consider *b* as the English *by God*. cp. to Lebanese (considered to be vulgar nowadays) *balla* meaning *by God* so our term becomes *b-strayne* = by Strenae => becomes lexicalized to gift. It istreated as any feminine noun: => bistraynt- in construct state.
The element *ay* may be concieved of as a deminutive. But could also be a diphthongisation of the *e* in *Strenae* (if Frayha’s explanation holds).
The only term (that I have found) that comes close is the combination of *b* + *str* (found in Hebrew and Syriac), yet I do not see the semantic connection though between these two terms.