Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word of the Day- henduneh - هندوانه

Perhaps it's the hot weather that made me choose today's word, but on this humid day nothing would hit the spot like some:

هندوانه  /  henduneh /  watermelon

And Iranians love watermelon. I remember my relatives always cutting up chunks of watermelon and sticking forks in them and passing it around. If you visit someone's house in Iran in the summer, they will surely offer you some cold henduneh to cool you off, especially if you've just traveled through notorious Tehran traffic to get there.

Iranians even roast and salt the watermelon seeds to use in their ajeel, trail mix. The way they crack these seeds and take out the kernel with their teeth in one swift fluid motion all while maintaining a steady conversation is truly a work of art. 

And while we're talking about watermelons, here is a common Persian idiom related to them:

هندوانه زیر بغل کسی گذاشتن  / henduneh zire baghale kasi gozashtan

This phrase literally means to put a watermelon under someone's arm. What it really means to say is to lay it on thick. There is a sense of trickery involved in this because the person is insincerely complimenting you in order to get you to do something they want. Why a watermelon? And why under your arm? I really don't know. But the next time someone is paying you empty compliments, be careful... there might just be a watermelon under your arm.

♥ Pontia


  1. My (Iranian) wife told me that if you put watermelon's under someone's arm you're making them seem bigger and more muscly than they really are. As you said, it would be like an insincere compliment in that way.

    1. Forty years ago I worked with student from Iran. He told me about this idiom and explained it to me. We were not only co-workers but also friends. I delighted in asking him how much he got for a used camel, as we would ask about a used car. I'd like to visit with him again.

  2. The expression 'Hendevahneh zeer-e-baghlam na meegozahreed,' - 'Don't put a watermelon under my arm', seems to me to be a gently humorous response from a 'modest' person trying to 'play down' or side-step a compliment.. One might consider it one aspect of the "T'aarof, Ta'arof, or Tarof" system, a system of 'etiquette' unique, I think, to the Persian culture. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    1. I would agree with you. Could definitely be considered part of the tarof culture.


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