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ضرب كفا بكف

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by jack_1313, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. jack_1313 Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Hi guys.

    I could use some help translating the expression in the title into English. The context is:

    لولا هذا التطور الهائل في المشهد السياسي في مصر، ورجحان كفة الشعب المصري ورئيسه المنتخب الجنرال «السيسي»، لكانت كرة اللهب المتدحرجة قد وصلت إلى دول الخليج ونالت منها، كيف لا والأخطار المحدقة بدول الخليج تحيط بها من كل جانب، سواء من اليمن أو من سوريا والعراق، وكان سقوط نظام «مبارك» في مصر أخطر تطور في الأحداث المحيطة بدول الخليج، حيث جعل من دول الخليج عرضة لانتقال عدوى «الربيع» من جهة، وانفتاح الشهية الإيرانية على الانقضاض على دول الخليج من جهة أخرى. لذلك، وبعد عودة مصر إلى الأحضان الخليجية، ووقوفها نفس الموقف الخليجي تجاه مؤامرة «الربيع»، لا تملك واشنطن سوى أن تضرب كفّا بكف، بعد خسرانها حلفاءها الذين وثقوا بها وانكشف لهم الدور الأمريكي فيما كان يحاك لهم، وانقلاب سحرها عليها في القاهرة أيضاً.

    For English speakers, putting ones hands together is not an indication of anxiety, dismay, or distress. What do you think an equivalent gesture could be? I am thinking along the lines of "put its palm to its face" (i.e. emphasising distress) or "bite its nails" (emphasising anxiety).
  2. Haroon Senior Member

    C A I R O
    I think that "ضرب كفّا بكف" is an indication of bewilderment.
  3. IbnWarraq New Member

    Arabic - Egypt
    Neither of the two gestures is equivalent, but the facepalm is the closest I can think of. The gesture is an expression of grief over the (usually sudden) loss of something of high value. Think "it slipped right through my hands!" kind of thing.
  4. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I think putting its palm to its face is closer. The expression يضرب كفًا بكف expresses disbelief and/or عَجْز .
  5. jack_1313 Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Thanks very much for the help with this Haroon, IbnWarraq, and Cherine.

    I did end up using the palm-to-face option. Although it isn't exactly equivalent, in the context of the overall passage I think the meaning is fairly similar, though it might have been possible to look outside the realm of physical gestures for a metaphor that conveys the exact meaning more accurately.
  6. suma Senior Member

    English, USA
    لا تملك واشنطن سوى أن تضرب كفّا بكف

    this looks like "Washington could do nothing but wring its hands (over the matter)."
    An expression of grief, sadness, frustration especially over something you failed to prevent, or feel powerless to change.

    Jack you sure about that? What about when people wring their hands to express dismay or to say I give up with him, I tried to help.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2014
  7. SolarGirl90

    SolarGirl90 Junior Member

    يضرب كفاََ بكف also expresses regret. Not sure about the English equivalent tbh but how about the idiom "to kick oneself"? I think it can convey the same meaning.
  8. jack_1313 Senior Member

    English - Australian
    I'd never seen this gesture or heard this expression before, but Google tells me that it is apparently common. In light of this information, I think we can say that your suggestion is probably the best translation.
  9. Divine Drama New Member

    Wring their hands. that's the equivalent gesture in English.

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