Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Empty Spaces, Empty Places

"How was your trip last week?" my khaleh, maternal aunt, asked me. 
"It was really great, jaye shoma khali!" I answered, you're place was empty. 

We Iranians can't seem to go anywhere or do anything without somebody's place being empty. If I'm visiting home when my siblings aren't, we say their place is empty. If they are visiting when I'm not, then they say my place is empty. No matter what, though, Iranians will always think of someone who is not there and say jaye ... khali! 

So what does all this talk of empty places even mean? Well, as I'm sure you've guessed, it's similar to the English wish you were here. You wish so much that someone could be with you that you metaphorically leave an empty space for them, almost like they were there in spirit. 

Or say that you went somewhere and thought so-and-so would love this place! Later you talk to this person and say"I discovered this cozy little restaurant, enghadr jato khali kardam, I made your place so empty! You would have loved it!" Or maybe you know that restaurant is your friend's favorite and you went there when he/she couldn't make it. You say the same thing when you talk to him/her.

This phrase can be used sincerely, but it wouldn't be a true Persian phrase if it couldn't also be used as a taarof. For example, you go to a wedding and later a friend asks you how it was. You can say, "It was nice, jaye shoma khali (or jat khali, in the informal form). Perhaps your friend doesn't even know the couple who got married, but you say this phrase out of politeness. It's always nice in Iranian culture to at least feign that you wish the other person were there instead of bragging about what a great time you had without them. Your friend could then respond, doostan be jaye ma, friends were in our place instead. 

A person's place can be empty, but you can also wish for their place not to be empty. The same way that Iranians use the phrase cheshme shoma roshan when a traveler arrives, they say jashun khali nabashe, may their place not be empty, when they leave. This implies that hopefully the person has gotten back to their normal day and isn't feeling too lonely or like someone is missing now that the other is gone. It's most common to hear this phrase, though some may also say jashun sabz, their place is green, meaning that there is a new positive growth in place of the person who has now left. 

So, who's place do you usually make empty?


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Persian | Farsi | Phrase | Jat khali | Wish you were here | informal

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