The Farsi Phrase Book That Netanyahu Should Own

Iranians have been making fun of Netanyahu’s ignorance about the realities of life in Iran after he said they were banned from wearing jeans. Picking up a little bit of Persian slang might help.

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It’s not clear where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got the idea that Iranians aren't free to wear jeans. For anyone who missed this one, there have been a string of dungaree demonstrations in Tehran after Netanyahu said in a BBC interview that Iranians can't wear jeans or listen to Western music.

I’m not sure what’s more amusing – the equivalence he made between being able to wear jeans and being free, or the slightly skewed view the Israeli premier has of Iran.

It might be that he’s been exposed to too many intelligence reports, and I’ve been reading too many good books and articles about life in contemporary Iran. Perhaps Netanyahu could use some catching up on the latter.

Given that he’s known to be a voracious reader, I’m going to suggest he try something along the lines of “Lipstick Jihad” by Iranian-American journalist Azadeh Moaveni, and then follow up with her book “Honeymoon in Tehran.”

And if he’s really interested in what people are wearing, he should probably check out this recent street shoot in Tehran, this photo essay on “Life in Tehran” in the Chicago Tribune, or this NBC News slideshow. After that, he might want to have a look at “The Iranian Living Room,” a collaborative project of 15 young Iranian photographers launched earlier this year.

But perhaps as enlightening as what people are wearing is what they’re saying. The following is the linguistic equivalent of wearing jeans in Tehran – the funny twists of phrase Farsi-speakers sprinkle into their everyday language. Knowing a few snappy words of slang used by smart Iranians may not solve the nuclear standoff between Jerusalem and Tehran, but it might help prevent Netanyahu from blurting out the next embarrassing faux pas.

So, here are ten words Iranians in the know love to use:

Bacheh sousouli: Literally, sissy kid. What tough kids from the rough parts of Tehran call their wimpy upper-middle class counterparts.

Fashioneh: Someone with good style – beyond wearing jeans.

Gondeh-goozi: Literally, loud gas-passing. Used in reference to leaders' and dictators' shameless self-aggrandizement in order to scare away potential threats.

Gir: Literally, a snag or hitch, but used by young Iranians constantly to describe their predicaments or hassles. As in, "Mom, why do you give me so much gir?" or "The basijis [volunteer morality police] stopped to search us and gave us gir for two hours." Can even can be turned into an adjective: "Avoid those particular security forces: They're very giry.”

Hosseleh: That extra bit of patience nobody has. As in, "I so don't have the hosseleh for this silly media war between Rohani and Netanyahu. Don't they know neither the Israelis nor the Iranians have any hosseleh left for another war?"

Irooni-baazi: How diaspora Iranians refer their countrymen's "games" in business, having held on to Bazaar-mentality. As in, “Sorry, Rohani. Ain't got the hosseleh for your Irooni-baazi.”

Javad: What hip, cool Iranians call poorly dressed countrymen. Similar to 'bumpkin' or 'hick', but with a more urban connotation. As in, “Besides almost dragging us to war, that javad Ahmedinajad didn’t even know how to dress.”

Kilid kardan: Sticking to a subject and not letting go of it until people are telling you to shut up.

Ozgal: Low-class idiot or prick. You don't even have to know what it means and it sounds like an insult.

Taarrof: Basic Persian culture 101. It can mean "to offer, to welcome," as in, you’re walking past my house and I invite you inside. Sometimes we mean it, and sometimes, well...

And a final bonus: Khodast: It's the BOMB. (Figuratively, of course.)

- Hip Iranians in five countries contributed to this post.

Screenshot from Twitter page of @NegarMortazavi