Sunday, April 24, 2016

Kerman-Related Persian Idioms

In a recent post about 6 things to buy in Kerman, I noted that there were 2 Persian idioms related to these products. Kerman is well known for its zire, caraway (or cumin- I’ve always known zire as cumin, but the dictionary says caraway, and quite frankly I can’t tell the difference between the two). So the first idiom we have is:

زیره به کرمان بردن
zire be Kermān bordan, taking cumin/caraway to Kerman, or the English equivalent: taking coal to Newcastle

A few months ago, my mom was visiting me from the US, and in addition to the stash of Peet’s French Roast coffee, Oreos, and manchego that I had requested, I also noticed a tiny jar of red powder. 

“Saffron,” she said.
“Saffron? Mom, you brought saffron to Iran, really? Zire be Kerman bordan?”
“It’s already ground and ready to use. Because I know you won’t do it yourself otherwise.”

The other idiom that I learned while in Kerman was related to pateh, the traditional cloth woven in this city.

پته کسی را روی آب ریختن
Pateh kesi rā ruye āb rikhtan, to throw someone’s pateh in the water

The English equivalent of this would be to call someone's bluff. Pateh is made with colorful yarn, and with a good quality pateh, the colors will not bleed if it gets wet. That’s why when you want to call someone’s bluff, you say you will throw their pateh in the water.

I bought this cloth while I was in Kerman, and just the other day, I accidentally knocked over a glass of water on it. I am happy to report that the colors did not bleed whatsoever, so now I’m even more sure that I got a good quality one well worth the price!



  1. Hi -
    As always your posts offer something new to learn and enjoy. I hope you continue sharing Persian language and culture with your readers for a long time.

    I'm someone who likes to eat a variety of foods and I love to learn about new foods. One thing I know is that caraway and cumin are not all the same spice seed. Caraway has an anise/licorice kind of flavor (some people use it in making German style sauerkraut)
    and cumin has a hotter/warmer flavor and no licorice taste (most Americans think of TexMex chili when they smell it). The seeds do look alike but not at all the same plant. In V. Mozaffarians' Dictionary of Iranian Plant Names he lists caraway (Carum L.) as zire siah orubai and cumin ( Cuminum L.) as zire sabz. Probably more than most people want to know but there it is anyway.

    1. Wow this is great! Thanks so much for clearing this up! :)


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