My friend Mimi remarked that every time she sees the word “faranji” she can’t help thinking about the Star Trek ferengi.

You may know from previous posts that “faranji” is what expats like us are called. Nik asked me a couple of days ago if “faranji” was a corruption of “foreigner.” I had assumed it was, but it turns out I was wrong. The word derives from an old Arabic pronunciation of Frank. The Franks were traveling traders, and the term came to mean any kind of western foreigner. Cognates can be heard all the way from Turkey to Malaysia. My husband’s Greek cousins, the Frangos family? Same derivation. And also the same with lingua franca – the Frankish tongue, the one that everyone knows because it’s used by those traveling traders when they come to town.

Kids (and sometimes adults) often shout out Faranj! Faranj! when they see you on the street. It’s a little bit irritating, and a little bit odd considering we are not such an unusual sight in the city. What’s funny to me, though, is that sometimes they will call out “China!” instead – evidence of the changing foreign influences in Africa.


As if anyone couldn’t tell


About lornaofarabia

I am a teacher from Medford, Oregon. I currently live and work in Bangkok, Thailand.
This entry was posted in Ethiopia, Expat experience and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Faranji

  1. Meseret says:

    I never knew the origin of the word ….Thanks!

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