The Habibi Phenomenon

– Habibi, I need to buy a new coat

– Habibi, I need some money

– Habibi, how are we going to pay all this back?

If you’re wondering, this is an example of some commercials typically played on Jordanian radio stations. What is bugging about those commercials, aside from sounding totally fake, especially with the unnecessary Lebanese accent sometimes, is the excessive and abusive use of the words “Habibi” and “Habibti” (My love)

The commercial starts with a woman asking her husband for money, and typically she will start almost every sentence with a hollow “Habibi”, which doesn’t feel like she loves him at all, but as something she’s used to say or just a technique to squeeze some money out of his pockets.

But the abuse of this term of endearment goes well beyond radio commercials. Any couple in a relation ship would milk it. “How are you Habibi?” “Where are you Habibi?” “How was the exam Habibi?” “Tfoo 3alaik Habibi”…

I’d love to see all this love filling the air, but the point is this word is losing its meaning; it’s being depleted out of its real sense. Words like “Habibi”, “Habibti” or “I love you” shouldn’t be said every single moment of every single day. To have meaning, they have to come in special occasion, when you feel that you want to say it, need to say it. Saying “I love you” 10 times in one phone call doesn’t mean you love that person more. At least save some of this for the times of need! It could work like magic…

Let’s keep in mind that love is a verb, meaning you can say “I love you” in 100 ways without uttering a word. And, if you do love each other, you probably won’t need to resort to this “Habibi bahebbak” rhetoric.

Let’s leave couples aside, since it’s understandable that they are experiencing something new and they are struggling to express it. What is with people spreading their love lavishly around, meaning that everyone is Habibi: their colleagues, their classmates, the hair dresser, the office boy and oh, what is it with salesgirl who would call you “habibti’ or “ya 3omry” (My Life)!  My mother doesn’t call me ya 3omry! Let alone someone I’ve never met and I light never see again in my life…

Originally Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2007 on


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