The Ultimate Business Dictionary

Disclaimer: to all the good people/companies I’ve worked or still working with, you know this is not aimed at you, no need to sever any ties


You know how sometimes different words seem to mean different things for different people? Specifically in the world of business, sometimes it appears as though there is some special dictionary some people refer to when doing business with other people. So, I imagine if there was such a dictionary it would probably have entries like this…


Freelancer [n.] A person who works for free. The word comes from the idiom “free as a bird” as they are free form the constraints of the capitalist world and basically live on love and leftover bread. Hence, a freelancer would never have a loan to pay off, they don’t need to eat, they don’t pay rents, so anything you give them in exchange of their work would be out of generosity.

Deadline [n.] 1) for business owners: A fictional legendary monster that will eat you alive if you don’t deliver on time. 2) For employees: An imaginary concept made-up by business owners to make your life miserable. If the word dead is any indication, there’s no hurry, it’s not going anywhere. The living is more important than the dead.


Entrepreneur [n.] Anyone who can describe themselves as such, regardless of their ability to spell the world itself. In Jordan they are basically like Kia Sepias, you find one between every other 2 cars.


Social Media Marketing [n.] Bombarding people with materials related to your company that even you wouldn’t  give a dead rat’s tail if you weren’t paid to and doing it every day until they wish they never knew you even existed.


Facebook [n.] An evil website that is designed to distract your employees and prevent them from doing their job, because otherwise nothing in the world could distract them from their fun and exciting work behind the computer screen.


And it goes on…

Subtitling… Again

A while ago I wrote this

Still, people’s first reaction when I tell them what I do is usually: Nice, you get to see all the new movies!

And then I have to tell them that it’s cool, it’s relatively easy but still it’s not all fun and games. That’s one reason I made this…



The Early Signs of Workaholism

The Early Signs of Workaholism

Sunday, June 28, 2009

As it turned out, traffic lights seem to be my new venue of inspiration

As I was leaving work today, as usual, I had to stop at a traffic light, and since it was Sunday and the traffic was heavy I had to wait a bit longer. So, I started to get bored and I had that feeling or urge or whatever that I can’t be just sitting around waiting and listening to the radio, I had to do something, so I fished out the scratch card I’d bought earlier to recharge my balance, and a piaster to scratch it with, you know how they keep giving you piasters with change especially those big super makrkets, someone should put an end to that! Nothing must be sold for a price that’s not a multiple of 5! Anyway, fidgety concerns aside, I scratched the card, picked up my mobile and started to recharge the balance, all the while sneaking a peek every other moment at the traffic light to see if it’s time to move, and before I knew it I found myself racing to type those numbers and hit the button, and that’s when I stopped and asked myself: What am I doing?

I started wondering, was it really about wanting a pastime while I waited or was it about the thrill and exhilaration of meeting a deadline? Or perhaps I feel that I need to actually do something all the time. Whatever happened to relaxation and contemplation? And if it was about doing something, anything, then what about those non-work-related things I’ve been meaning to catch up on or even start with but never got around to doing them? And I’m not saying that there wasn’t time, there’s always time, it’s just that I use it to do other things.

Recently I’ve been favoring work with much of my time. The other day I was too preoccupied with it that I actually dreamed about the file I was working on and I hadn’t finished yet. That’s another sign I guess. And, you know recently when I had the occasional toothache that crippled me for like 20 minutes if not more and I couldn’t do anything until the pain subsided, do you know what I once thought? “How much work time have I missed during that painful spell?”

So, if you have any similar symptoms you are strongly advised to kick back before you kick off. Other signs may include admiring career obsessed TV characters, working late on weekends; underestimating the importance of sleep and feeling like your eyes are filled with sawdust.

Bottom line, work is great and everything, but when it starts to turn into an obsession and starts to take the place of other things in your life that are no less important than it, then you better nip it in the bud

Get well soon

What puts “Labour” in “Labour Day”

Ever wondered why Labour Day is on the first day of the month?

Wednesday, 30 April

It’s a new day! Rise, shine and behold: it’s the last day of the week. Having a Wednesday as the last workday is an unspeakable joy for any employee. That day being the last day in the whole month, double so.

It’s around 8:20 AM, I’m approaching the company and as I take a load of the gigantic glass windows I think of the work waiting for me behind those walls, and to tell you the truth, it didn’t make me exactly cheerful. But still, something in the back of my mind reminded me that it’s the 30th of April, and in order for today’s work to be counted as a bonus, it had to be done before May strikes.

I arrive at the office, and honestly I’m having a hard time remembering whether I’d chatted with anybody before I unloaded my stuff and switched my computer on. However, I can clearly remember that the clock on the screen read 8:23, at which time I started working keen not be disturbed. I tried not to open any conversation with anyone and shunned those as politely and quickly as I could.

I was so absorbed that I didn’t even notice Amjad doing his daily routine errand: comes by with a mug in his hand, stands at the door off the office, throws a teasing remark and goes back to his office quickly. I was setting a time limit for myself to finish each and every part of what I was working on. I didn’t stop for long even when Ruba rushed into the office all angry and infuriated after the program she was working on encountered a fatal error and her work wasn’t saved, yet again.

Naturally, I wasn’t the only one swamped. The whole office seemed to be on a rush. After all it was the 30th of April, and we were finishing up the month. Even when I went to pray, I could still hear the sound of phone ringing and people walking in the hallway. Not to mention the endless talk about salaries, bonus, overtime, deductions, etc.

By 1:00 o’clock, I was starting to doze off. My head felt so heavy and my eyes hurt. A break? Well, a 15 minutes doze wouldn’t kill anyone. When it comes to taking naps on hard wooden desks, I’m the one to turn to. Later on, Sireen, who was desperate for a nap and has an urgent work to do came by sulking, and we all shared the same notion: We all want this day to end.

By around 4:20, I’m done. My head feels like one of those African Zulu drums. But, still, it’s the 30th of April, and I could feel that I earned the day off. I was having raptures of joy, the month is over and it was officially announced that whoever finished his work could go home anytime. Have a nice weekend!

At home, a nice healthy meal, a walk and a sniff of fresh air could turn your world around. To top all, a blog post just before bedtime for all the workers in the world, whether you were the CEO of a multi-national company or just selling newspapers at the traffic lights, for each and everyone of you making this world unstoppingly viable: It’s labour day, and you’ve earned it.

Originally posted on April 30, 2008 on

Yes! I’m the one who translates “Shit” as Alla3na!

I remember a particular incident that took place one day in the bank, when I went with a colleague from work to cash a check. We arrived at the bank, I cashed my check and supposed that she was done too, but it seemed that there was a tiny problem. It turned out that her account was block for some vague reason, so we waited to see what the problem could possibly be hoping that it will be sorted out smoothly. Then, to our surprise, they told us that her account had been blocked because they couldn’t identify the job title, which was “subtitler”.

Apparently, subtitler comes from the word “subtitle”. That line of words that appears usually in the bottom of the screen to interpret what is being said in another language. Just like Microsoft Word, many people don’t seem to be familiar with the word “subtitler”, although nobody in his right mind would consciously  assume that movies translate themselves, or that automatic translation actually works. Yet, most people will make fun of funny/ wrong translation, and I was and still one of those, except that I took it to a whole new level now, because there are many things you may never know unless you enter the not-so- far away world of subtitlers, about which I’ll try my best here to set the record straight on some issues.

For some reason, I have never considered the possibility of working as a subtitler, not for a fraction of a second, as if there was no such job to start with. It wasn’t before I got a job at a subtitling company that I realized I could do such a thing. They made me take an exam, or shall I say an acid test, in which I had to translate lines from movies on paper. Can you imagine what it’s like to translate a pun or an innuendo completely out of context and without seeing the actual scene? It’s almost impossible, in some cases. So I wasn’t at all surprised when a week passed without hearing from them. That said, I was equally surprised when they actually called.

To cut a long story short, my career kicked off successfully, and I began devouring frames away, discovering the mysterious world of TV shows subtitling. My first official assignment was “Malcolm in the middle”. I was pleased since it was one of my favorite shows.  I remember how when I went home my sister asked me: So, how many episodes did you translate today? I was like: Hmmm, 10 minutes! And she was stunned, since she had the idea that when a show is 40 minutes long, it takes 40 minutes to subtitle, which couldn’t be further away from the truth. What she didn’t know is that sometimes a 40 minutes episode could take up to 2 or 3 days sometimes, depending on the show and on the subtitler themselves. Of course in the world of subtitling more minutes mean more money, and a top-notch subtitler can do up to 60 minutes per day after some practice.

As I said, it depends for the most part on the show itself. What accent do they use? Is there a script for this episode? Do they talk too much? Is there too much overlapping? Ect. There is no comparison between translating a thrilling and full of action scenes episode of LOST, and doing an episode of “Moonlighting” where young Bruce Willis wouldn’t stop gibbering. Further more, subtitling may change your view on certain shows or actors. I used to love watching ER, but after doing an episode that practically drove me crazy with all the over lapping and medical abbreviations, I’m not that fond of it anymore. It’s just very different from doing a slow-paced episode of desperate housewives; where Mary Alice seems to be in no rush whatsoever as she narrates the events.  There’s also a difference between those shows and talk shows. Nobody likes the latter, but the worst yet is car shows and real TV. I blew a gasket each time I was given an episode of “Top Gear”, “Monster Garage” or the notorious “Unique Whips”. And it has nothing to do with not being a car aficionado.

When it comes to movies, those are everyone’s favorite, especially horror movies where everybody shouts and nobody says much “subtitable” material. I remember doing Pirates of the Caribbean 2, perhaps the most fun subtitling experience ever! It was 2:45 minutes and I finished it in one and a half day, which was a big record! It was awesome because there wasn’t much blabbering, Johnny Dipp’s out-of-this-world terms and all the movie-specific words were explained elaborately in the script. Besides that I got to enjoy every single detail of the movie.

To tell the truth, I have to say that being a subtitler is not as fun as some people seem to think. It might be more fun that some jobs, but it doesn’t mean watching movies and TV shows all day long. It means a headset pressed against your ears, eye-strain, headaches, sedentary life style, watching crappy shows and one big word: STRESS, which for the subtitler is embodied in the word: URGENT. You can never guess when you might have an urgent assignment to deliver. Sometimes a channel might send a movie and demand it to be delivered in two days. Your job as a subtitler here is to bury your face in the monitor, don’t take full lunch breaks, and sometimes work extra hours to get the job done. I remembered when we translated the Da Vinci code (the movie). It was scheduled to be aired Thursday at 5:00, and we cut it really close by finishing it less than half an hour before the show time. It goes without saying that such a rush may very well undermine the quality of the translation, especially for a movie like the Da Vinci Code, which needs a good deal of research for historical accuracy.

Moreover, I discovered that when you’re a subtitler, you will use many words and expressions you used to make fun of in the past. “tabban” and “alla3na” are the most common translation for “Shit”. And while many people find it funny, you would soon discover that it’s just the right translation. Meaning, in English they use the word “Shit” to express anger, so you’ll have to look up a word in Arabic that is used to express anger, such as “tabban” instead of doing the most stupid thing a subtitler could do and use the literal translation of the same word. What I want to say is that sometimes it’s very hard to express things that are said in one language using another language, so subtitlers do find themselves cornered sometimes to use “funny” or “absured” expressions. In fact, many times when I mention that I’m a subtitler people would promptly say: Ah, so you’re the one who writes “Alla3na!”

Another thing that can be sometimes much of a nuisance is the subtitling rules provided by the client. Some rules are sensible but others are, or at least sound to me, ridiculous. For example: You’re not allowed to translate “Wine” as “Nabeeth”, you should translate it as “mashroob”, as if the viewer is so stupid as to think “mashroob” actually means “orange juice”! Their point is that by telling the real name of the alcoholic beverage you are promoting alcoholism. Give me a break here! What promotes alcoholism? This or scenes of men gathering around a gambling table drying cup after cup or even men drunk out of their minds? If you have this ethical concern, they why do you show these movies altogether? And I’ll tell you something: Many of those shows are pure white trash. Please don’t make me start on the bloody wrestling programs in which the word “bastard” is beeped (originally in the show not by the channel). Seriously? You pitch these pointless violent programs oozing with negative energy on teenagers and you’re afraid they hear such inappropriate word as “bastard”. Contradiction at its worst!

One last point in defense of subtitlers: we don’t always have a script at hand. Sometimes we have to deal with entire movies and subtitle them based on what we hear, with all the lousy audio, soundtracks, overlapping and even the noise of roaring engines. So, don’t be too harsh when you read a translation of something you could hear clearly on TV, but the translation looks completely irrelevant.

From my experience as a subtitler, I can tell you one thing: Don’t be one! Because once you’re there, you either can’t work in any other domain, or you just want to quit and do something that has nothing to do with translation. I turned out to be from the first type, but you can still run for your life.

Originally Posted on Friday, November 30, 2007 on