Friday, November 7, 2008

A few lines of Coptic

I'm editing a fun section - the actual taking of the body from St. Mark's Church. The event in my book is surrounded by the chaos of a multi-faction street riot. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to write a baroque fugue, with all the different lines coming together. Hopefully the writing is tight and clear enough to make it all hang together.

I have a couple of lines of Coptic that I want to put in the text, if any speakers of that language happen to be looking at the blog. They are,

"Mark, save us!"


"Save Saint Mark!"

The astute reader will figure something out about how I've written the event based on these two lines...

I realize of course that the real Coptic uses a different character set: I will be transliterating to the English alphabet in the text.

Hey, while I'm at it there is a single word of Arabic that I also need. What would an Arabic-speaking sailor from, say, Syria yell upon sighting land? The classic English line is, "Land ho!" or just "Land!" Naturally I would have to transliterate that as well.

I thank my readers for any help they can offer.


  1. "Mark, save us!" = "Markos, Swtie emmon!"
    notice that the the coptic word Swtie is of greek origin. you could use "nahmen eron" also which of Ancient Egyptian origin.

    "Save Saint Mark!" = "Swtie Avva Markos!"

    Copts use "Avva = Father" for St mark as he is the father of our church.

    "Land ho!" = "El-barr Aho!" I made that up, I don't know of any special expression used by sailors.

    dude, you better send me a free copy of the book lol

  2. Thanks, Ray!

    I wasn't sure how to pronounce "swtie" (sigma-omega-tau-iota-epsilon?) so I looked up some liturgies online for some extra help. I found the line, "O Lord save us" given as "O Epchoise ek e-nahmen" - so would, "Avva Markos, ek e-nahmen!" also be correct? And then "Ek-e Avva Markos! (I am guessing at the conjugation here)"

    I loved learning that you refer to him as Avva Markos. That's a great cultural touch that will make the book read better.


  3. "Avva Markos, ek e-nahmen!" sounds good
    "Nahme, Avva Markos!" would be correct as well

  4. Thanks again! You're a great help. Hey, if you ever see the Goitein book I mentioned, you might want to give it a read. It is all about Jews, but it does give a lot of insight about being a "dhimmi" in Egypt during the Fatamid period. (This period is after the events of St. Mark's Body, which takes place in the Abbasid era.)