Sunday, February 04, 2007

Goats Girras and Geezers-- Tales From The Deep Freeze

Where the hell is global warming when you need it? December was nice, we admit, but Mr. February here is getting even with us quite oppressively. Here's today's numbers:

High/Low Temperature: 9/0 F (-13/-18 C).

Current Temp: 3 F ( -16 C).

Windchill: -12 F (-25 C).

How does it feel? Well, I'll get to that quickly enough. The heat in my office was off when I first got here. Wonderful, I thought. Maybe somebody guessed everyone would be home on this Superbowl Sunday and decided--what the hell--let's turn it off. The good news is, my colleague who specializes in bugging the HVAC people was here this morning. And sure enough, the heat is on now!

About how cold it feels, I just remembered some sayings from various sources. First, let me warn you that this is an adult-content post.
Let's start with the American sayings:
- The first saying is a funny one, and it's not at all what it sounds like. I first heard about it when I lived in Pittsburgh, after watching a weather forecast of a sevrely cold night. The weather guy did his bit and added, "You better take in that brass monkey!" I was intrigued by that. I wondered if people in western PA used brass monkeys as a lawn decoration or some such thing. Later, a friend of mine told me it was all a reference to a saying for describing a really cold night: "...cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey." There is actually a lot of stories about the origin of this saying. The one I like most relates to my profession. Supposedly, in some old war, cannon balls used to be stacked on a brass plate called a "monkey." When the temperature dropped low enough overnight, the brass would undergo a transformation of its atomic structure that changes its volume suddenly (expands or contracts), causing the cannon balls to be displaced and fall off. The following morning, soldiers tending to the cannons would see the fallen balls and might note, "It was cold enough to freeze the balls off the brass monkey."

- "It feels colder than a witch's tit." This one I have no experience with, lol lol, but I can imagine...

Now a Libyan thermo-anatomical: "It's colder than a fisherman's butt." Self explanatory.

The windy cold spell in Libya is called a "Girra." I imagine it's because people say "Girrrrrrrrrr" with a fluttering lower jaw. Sort of like "Brrrr!" There is a nasty Girra that comes at the end of January, early February. It is called Girret al-'Anz (Goat Girra), in reference to the astrological goat (capricorn), I believe. There's another Girra that comes later in the year, late April or early May, called Girret le-Hsoom, which as the old saying goes, marks the start of swim season. Most Libyans don't hit the beaches in spring, even though the climate can be warm enough. But, "Ila fatit girret lehsoom, agla3 jerdek ou 3oom!"

My mom used to recite a little poetic ditty about Girret el-Anz. I can't remember all of it, but it goes something like this:

إتجي في آخر أي النار
Itji fi aakhir Ayennar

(She comes at the end of January)

ؤتسلّف من خوها فورار نهار
Ou tissellif min khouha Forar nahar
(And she borrows a day from her brother February)

ؤتحلف ما نمشي نين نحط قريني على الدوار
Ou tihlif ma nimshi nain inhutt grainy 3ala al-douar
(She swears not to leave until she puts her little horn around the orbit)

ونشخخ العجوز على النار
Winshakhkhikh el-3ajouz 3ala annar
(And make the old woman piss on the fire!)

And finally, an entry from Lebanon:

قاللو لشباط آذار
Allu la Shbat Azar
(March told February)

شباط يا ابن عمي
Ya Shbat ya ibn 3ammi
(O'February, my cousin)

إتلاتتين منك وأربعتين مني
Thalathetain minnek ou arba3tain minni
(two threes from you and two fours from me)

بنخلي طيز العجوز تغني
Benkhalli Teez el-3ajouz itghanni
(We'd make the old woman's butt sing)

بنوقدها دولابها (مغزلها) ب
Benwa'dha dulabha
(We'd make her burn her spindle)
[to get some heat.]

ونشخخها ورا باب دارها
Winshakh-khikha wara bab darha
(And we'd make her piss behind her room door)
[Can't even make it to the bathroom.]

Poor old woman! lol lol lol.


  1. It's currently -5°F (-21°C)! We have a wind-chill advisory continuing till tomorrow, Tuesday. Wind chill advisory is issued when the wind combined with cold temperatures create dangerously cold conditions for exposed skin.

    I got a diet Coke form the garage to have with my lunch and couldn't drink it--it's frozen! Schools have been cancelled today, and probably tomorrow since it will be even colder.

  2. nearly forgot Girret el-Anz, cause very rarely rain here or feel so cold.
    at last it rained last night after nearly 2 month in the winter and no rain.
    Thanks Allah
    thanks for sharing the poem , first time I hear about it.

  3. that was very funny, i really need to read them again and again :o)