Ask Ali: Spotting an Emirati first name isn’t straightforward

There is no way someone’s first name can tell you for certain which country they come from. But there are names that are known to represent a certain region, or a religion.

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Dear Ali: How can I tell from a person's first name if they're an Emirati or not? Is it different for men and women? TA, Sharjah

Dear TA: There is no way someone’s first name can tell you for certain which country they come from. But there are names that are known to represent a certain region, or a religion and so on, which would give you an indication of where that person could come from – and that’s how you can tell in this case.

For example, many Saudis have a member of their family who carries the names Saud, Abdulazziz, Faisal, Turki or Nayef for men, while in the UAE you would have names such as Zayed, Khalifa, Butti or Hazza. For females you would find names such as Ousha, Afra, Mouza, Elyaziya or Alanoud, which represent some of the old, traditional female names in Emirati society and the Gulf in general. It’s very common in each region for people to name their children after the prophets that they believe in, their heroes, and, in the Gulf, sheikhs and sheikhas.

There’s nothing that says this is an Emirati name only, but there are more common names in Emirati society that are used by the families, which is the case, I believe, in every country.

Sometimes you would come across an Emirati who has a name such as Wael, Hossam or Tamer. These are male names that are common in the Levantine region and not the Gulf, but that doesn’t mean that men from the UAE can’t have them. It’s just not that common.

Dear Ali: What are the most common spelling and terminology mistakes that you've came across from the expatriate community? ZS, Abu Dhabi

Dear ZS: It’s time for me to pick on my expat friends. I believe that there are many spelling and terminology mistakes, but the most common ones would be:

Arab is a noun or an adjective. Arabic is the name of the language. Arabian is an adjective that refers to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Gulf or Arabian horses.

It’s Muslim, not Moslem; and it’s sheikh, not sheek or shak. Allah is the word for God in Arabic, not the name of a god. Quran, not Koran, and it’s more polite when mentioning or writing to write Holy Quran instead of just Quran. And jihad means struggle, not war, specifically, in terms of a personal or inner struggle.

Dear Ali: What’s the word for “forgive me” in Arabic or the Emirati dialect? MJ, Dubai

Dear MJ: Who did you upset? What did you do? Just kidding. “Forgive me” in Arabic is samehni to a man and samheeni to a woman. For more than one person, you would say “samhooni” whether they are a man or a woman, and in the Emirati dialect you would say “elsemooha” for all.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question.

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