Just another filler word that confuses every non-Arabic speaker.

If you’ve been following our “Lost in Translation” series, you might remember last month’s spotlight on “Yaane,” the Arabic equivalent of the filler word “like.” Filler words can perplex non-Arabic speakers, as they may assume significant meaning behind them. However, these words are typically used in colloquial Arabic rather than formal Arabic (fusha). It’s important to note that filler words can differ across countries or regions in the MENA area. For instance, “enno” is commonly used in Levantine Arabic, encompassing Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

While opinions may vary on the necessity of filler words, they play a significant role in our speech. Most of us use them unconsciously, without even realizing it. What’s intriguing about these filler words isn’t the words themselves but rather what their presence in a conversation signifies. Cold languages often have fewer or no filler words at all. In contrast, Arabic, being a warm and welcoming language, tends to embrace a more informal and elongated way of speaking. This can involve altering pronunciation, adding filler words, and even elongating certain letters when the context allows.

“Enno” is one of those words used when pausing in a conversation, allowing one to gather their thoughts. While eliminating unnecessary words entirely (which seems nearly impossible for most of us) may make your speech clearer and more straightforward, it amusignly doesn’t align with the essence of Arabic speech. However, it’s important to remember that this primarily applies to everyday conversations, not formal business meetings, where excessive use of filler words may convey the wrong impression.

Interestingly, filler words like “enno” have become so ingrained in our linguistic repertoire that they even find their way into full English conversations. So if you ever hear it, just know that’s an indication that someone is still processing their thoughts before speaking.

Yet, I occasionally wonder: Are we hesitant to abandon filler words due to our fear of awkward silence? I’m not entirely sure.

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at rand@khamsa5.com or follow her on social media @rundoozz.
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