A 'chat' language derived from Arabic and English – progress or problem?


When Jihad El Eit opened the first branch of his fast food business in Dubai, he relied on little more than gut instinct when it came to choosing a name. At the time, 'Man2ooshe & Co' seemed like an inspired choice. Not only did it fit with the company's contemporary take on traditional Arabic street food but it also used the Arabic chat alphabet in its name, a phonetic mish-mash of Arabic sounds and Roman characters that has become one of the most common and convenient modes of written communication for Arabic-speaking youth.

 

In the phonetic Arabic chat alphabet, 'Man2ooshe' becomes 'Man'oushey' because the '2' is used to represent a pause between syllables in Arabic. The name spoke directly to the young, hip, Arabic but English-speaking market Jihad El Eit was aiming for.

 

Unfortunately, 'Man2ooshe & Co' soon became the victim of its own success, as non-Arabic speakers, unfamiliar with the phonetic transliteration that defines the Arabic chat alphabet, also started to demand the firm's home-made take on traditional Middle Eastern snacks such as manakeesh, burek, and minikeesh.