Tunisian Arabic: telling time

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by akhooha, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. akhooha Senior Member

    English - USA
    While spending a summer in the city of Tunis back in the early 70s, I recall the Tunisians using a unit of time called the "دْرَج" (drej) and, if I remember correctly, it denoted a period of time equal to 20 minutes (corresponding to the Moroccan "ثُلْث" (tult). E.g. "خمسة ودرج" would mean 5:20, "خمسة ودرجين" would mean 5:40, and "خمسة غير درج" would mean 4:40, etc.
    Just recently I met a student from Sfax who told me that دْرَج actually denoted a period of 5, not 20 minutes.
    Is my memory faulty, or has there been a change in meaning in the last 40 years, or is there maybe a difference in usage between Sfax and Tunis? I'm thinking it's more likely that my memory has failed, but would appreciate information from anyone who is a native speaker of the Tunisian colloquial.
    Thank you.
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    As I am sure you know, in classical Arabic daraja means “degree”. The apparent motion of the heavenly sphere is 360° in 24 hours, thus: 15° in one hour, thus: 1° in 4 minutes. So “about 5 minutes” makes better sense to me.
  3. Aloulu Senior Member

    Tunisian Arabic
    Yes, "draaj" (pronounced like this) means "five minutes" in our Tunisian dialect. Darjin (dual) means two times 5 minutes = 10 minutes. When you would like to say 20 minutes past 5 it would be "khamsa wa arbaa (draj)". So 05h20 is that is.

    For 15 minutes we say "rab3a" or "orbo3" (1/4th of a hour). For example 03h15 would be "tlaatha (wa) orbo3". 15h45 would be "arbaa ghayr orbo3" (4 minus 1/4th of a hour)
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Thank you, Aloulu, for the confirmation. It would seem that draaj originally meant “one degree”, that is: “four minutes”, but with the spread of clock time it was reinterpreted as the time needed for the minute hand to move from one number to the next (five minutes).
  5. akhooha Senior Member

    English - USA
    أشكركم كلّكم ـــ واضح اني بقيت عجوز فعلاً... فذاكرتي فاشلة أكثرمما افتكرت بكثير
  6. Aloulu Senior Member

    Tunisian Arabic
    ;) ما في حتى مشكلة خويا، على أقل تذكرنا وهدا حاجة باهية برشة
  7. akhooha Senior Member

    English - USA
    الله يخليك ـــ
  8. akhooha Senior Member

    English - USA
    An interesting explanation. But somehow I find it difficult to be convinced that the general speech community of the Tunisian dialect would have such an astute and familiar knowledge of astronomical measurements that it would borrow for general and widespread usage a term from astronomy to indicate a time period (albeit a minute off).

    P.S. (زاد الطين بلّة) I wonder if there's any connection at all between دراج (draaj)(the unit of time) and درجة ("degree") and the word Tunisians refer to when speaking of the Tunisian colloquial (دارجة)(daarja).

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