Gal W Golna

In Jordan there are two noticeable yet subtle dialects, those of us who say “Gal” and those who say “2al”. For the non-Arab reader both words mean the same thing: “said”. The ‘G’ and the ‘2’ represent the letter ‘Qaf’ in Arabic but is pronounced differently. The first one: “gal” sounds exactly like it’s read in English. The second one: “2al” sounds more like the name “Al”.

For the most part the “2al” people live in West Amman and the “Gal” people in the rest of the country. It’s not just the word “said” but it’s reserved for anything starting with the letter “Qaf” like “ga3deen” (sitting), “golak” (tell you), “gabel” (before), “groush” (piasters), “gerd” (monkey), “gayem” (getting up), “galb” (heart), “garaf” (disgusting) et cetera.

To replace the “G” with the “2” is to imply a sense of sophistication, perhaps a more modern or chic use of the Arabic language. Sometimes we describe a person as the “gal w golna” type or the “2al ou 2olna” kind of guy. It implies geography and status. The same way some people in Jordan will call their parents “yaba” and “yamma” as opposed to “baba” and “mama”. You can tell where they’re from and to an extent what kind of environment they exist in.

But it also implies gender; many guys in Jordan, despite where they’re from or their status, will say “gal” to imply roughness and manliness. The females on the other hand will say “2al” because it’s much softer and somewhat feminine.

Maybe there are more explanations for it. Maybe it’s a trend, maybe it’s inevitable with increasing social divides.

I honestly use both, but never consciously. It’s an automatic mechanism in the dialect handler in my mind. In Amman my tongue will say “2al ou 2olna” and when I’m outside Amman it switches to “Gal ou Golna”. It can’t be helped. I think on a subconscious level it is my desire to fit in with the surrounding environment and so my tongue, like a chameleon, changes accordingly.

But there are other words that run along the same lines. For example the “K” and the “Ch” representing the letter “Kaf”. In most of Jordan you’ll hear “Chayfak?” (how are you?) in Amman you’ll hear “Keefak?”. Or “Chalb” and “Kalb” (dog).

The idiosyncrasies of our culture never cease to amaze me.


  • 😀

    in Amman youâ??ll hear â??Keefak?â?

    ‘Kaifak?’ in Amman … “Keefak?” in Ramallah …and “KeeeEEEfahk? in khaleel

    do you say fee (in it) or feyyo?! feyyo gets on my nerves! :d

  • Well, the “2al people” as you put it are those who fled Palestine in 1948 and later on 1967, mostly from Northern Palestine where “2al” is common.
    For instance,Ramthawis and people from Irbid sometimes sounds a little bit Syrian, especially when counting.

    Anyways, the point is, even in Amman you have to do the switching. Let me explain:

    1. You are trying to get some governmental work done. So if you use Gal, the employee will ask you from where you are (Are you Garabah so you get the wasta? Shu 3eeltak enta? (Funny thing, happend to me twice this week, if I had he right family name, it would have been easier!
    2. You are being stopped by some policemen, you use Gal
    3. You are in the middle of a fight….you figure
    4. You are a male Fastlink in customer care, you use the most *** accent ever!

    I think people should talk the way they wish and never be ashamed of who they are, but what i’m talking about here, oh we are unashamedly judgmental and racists! Anyways, not all girls speak in “2al”!
    Actually, I see many Iraqis, especially the women are trying to talk in an Ammani accent as not to be took advantage, as our people God bless them will double the prices on them and as a result on us as well!

    I think we have to worry more about Gal o Golna!Wella shu G/2ollak?

  • firas, take it easy im not being judgemental or racist against anyone. i’m just pointing out some of my observations about things i find to be unique about my culture and society.

  • I was not refering to you Nas!
    Actually I always viewed your opinions to be far from any disrimination.
    You were discussing a social attribute.
    I was talking in general “We are judgemental society” that people have to actually hide their accents or heritage!

    All respect and keep it up with your posts.

  • no racism wala shee ya sidi.. it is the Karaki blood only! i thought reading this was quite entertaining! u should send it to chomsky… However, in any government place, if you want ur papers to be processed miraculously fast, get a female speaking shami to do them for u! i know that for a fact! hehe

  • it’s like that joke when girl from karak trying to show off by saying 2al o 2olna so bus karak marak for her it’s (bus el2ara2 mara2) lol

  • LOl that was fun! Add to those words that go along the line the word: “6age3” never say 6a2e3 or you’re probably gonna raise suspecions!

    There is a word that I like but I don’t know its meaning, Galam gayem,. as in: san7ak galam gayem

    speaking of this, I think you all know that joke about the villager who wanted to get urban, so she asked someone at the bus stop: bus el 2ara2 mara2? >>> bus el karak mara2

  • I’m of the jObneh/khObOz dialest. (yeah, hada tasneef la7alo:D) And i’m always made fun

    But I dont mind,cause at the end Im a proud nabOlsi chick 😎

  • interesting post

    some people same Haika instead of Haik
    soem people say shoo binnisbeh , when just being inquisitive about a general thing.

    2al, gal and kal for that matter, only reflect urban vs rural background, and you can find it in many places across the middle east.
    in Gaza, Bier Sabe3 use Gal, Nablus , khaleel, quds and many cities in west bank use 2al, most of the west bank villeges use kal, and in Jordan most villeges use Gal etc..

    As for the nabulis dialect, Ohoud, it deos not stop at Khoboz, and jobneh, but there is much much more, like Hoshos (for Hishis ) 3oshreen for 3ishreen (twinty), Anie for Ana (I) like in Irbid. I lived 13 years in Nablus , fa i know what i am talking about.

    Ammar Sajdi
    Oracle Consultant

  • Everything is fine and dandy when people speak different dialects.

    But when you, a Jordanian who grew up all his life in Jordan, discover that there are certain words that only you say, then that starts getting scary.

    Anybody say “hayyo”? As in “here it is”? Good, anybody say “hayyoak”? As in “there it is”?

    I didn’t think so.

  • Very amusing post =)..

    Another thing Nas , is that away from Western Amman , many of females inhabitants of eastern amman and other parts of Jordan tend to use the masculine pronoun upon speech , so the girl would say ” Ana ta3ban instead of ta3baneh ” and you could measure it on all other words .

    I am from Ohoud’s league .. and I get sarcastic comments all the time for the khOboz & jObneh too .. but that’s okay :).

    Ammar , true , people of Nablus tend to “eydommo” the word , but I have to correct you with one thing though , they have a strong qaff in their dialect, so most original Nabulsi’s â?? and by that I mean the ones who live in old town Nablus- will say Qal (he said) , qaddaish ? (how much?) ..

  • Salam,

    When I was in Kuwait (before 1986) we always spoke with 2al ew 2olna (kashal).

    Then When i mingled with my fellow palies from all over the globe I started using the kal ew kolna.

    I use kal ew kolna 100% in my regular dilect which gets on my family’s nurves cause they are still using the 2al ew 2olna.

    P.S: whats up with SEEDY thingy? does seedy mean Sir? or master?
    I hate that word.
    I always answer anyone who calls me that SEEDY EW SEEDAK ALLAH (Which doesn’t go well with them either).


  • Very interesting subject, Although, being of Western Amman or Eastern Amman has absolutely nothing to do with the actual use of G or 2.

    It all goes back the ancestry people are (choosing) to relate to. If they’re relating to thier Palestinian (falla7i) ancestry many will say “kal” and a stronger letter than K but less than full Qaf. Like in the tongue of people from Qalqeelyah

    If people chose to relate to thier Beduin/tribal hiratage, they would usually say Gal and Golna. Interestingly, the Gal and Golna is also the way people from Gaza strip has in common with the Jordanian tongue (with different stress on other syllables of the word).

    Now Finally, the 2al and 2olna, is the City talk of all the geographic Pali-Jordanian region. So it was natural that it would continue in the cities all over the region
    Funny thing, I still remember my grand mother who passed away 20 years ago, and she was talking “2al and 2olna”

    And I agree with Oula, if you want anything done, take a lady with a lebanese or Syrian accent 🙂

  • Nas, there is a new definition for people who talks in American Accent in Amman, which is the “R” …
    when a Jordanian talk only in English in American Accent they say “Oh! he is an R” …


  • Fun post, bagoolach. I get confused when there is an Egyptian in the conversation, my brain can’t handle all the G sounds.

    Maybe it’s my bad Arabic, but I like to use the ‘g’ instead of 2 in West Amman just to watch people cring at the foreigner sounding so Karakiyya

  • This is what makes Arabic so hard for non native Arabic speakers like myself. The type of Arabic I know best, Hijazi, the “g” way is what is most common. I think dropping the “g” is pretty common in Egypt as well isnt it? They often tend to drop the “g” or make it too strong, as in the way they might say “Khadiga” instead of “Khadija”.

    I havent heard the “ch” used in words like “Kalb” before, and I would most certainly use “keefuk” or “Ish akhbarak”.

    Again, this is what makes Arabic hard. So many dialects, some so very different. I remember going to a Jordan/Palestinians house for dinner with the wife and kids once. I asked the teenage girl there, in Arabic, to hand me the bread next to her. I used “aish” for bread, and she didnt have a clue what I was one about. Turns out they didnt use that word for bread……

  • hi,

    usually i speak gal, but when at home speaking to my mother or father i use the “kal”, and i find it strange when my mother says “kef 7alak” for a boy and “kef 7alech” for a girl or “koltelak” and “koltelech” it’s weird…

    i remember when i used to visit my relatives in west bank my uncle’s wife who is originally from Nablus “offcourse my uncle is a “kal” speaker” we used to nag her cuz of the way she speaks we would ask her say “kor” the son of a donkey ofcourse she would say (2or) which was total fun.

    now my boss is lebanese, he laughs very mcuh when i say words like “tage3” or “7areg 3a tareg”.

    actually i find something amusing, we used to say “og3od ga3ed a7san am agel gemtak godam el ga3den” or “ana kadreye 3bdelkader men kalkelye basalem 3a ahly o karaybe o bakolhom teklakosh el kalak katal sa7bo”



  • The same thing happens with me when i am in canada i start using gal but in amman i use the 2al, i dont know why eventhough i hate using gal

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