Enti Ay Kalam انتي أي كلام (You Ain’t All That) Tameem Youness

This song, which was Egypt’s biggest hit in 2018, might provoke lamentations about the decline in Egypt’s music industry and overall cultural sophistication since the days that Umm Kulthoom sung highly poetical lyrics by Ahmed Rami and Ibrahim Nagi. Consisting of only three words repeated a total of 38 times (yes, we counted), “Enti Ay Kalam” seems to achieve its catchiness more by brute force than by melodic or lyrical finesse.  But on the other hand, it has to be conceded that through the various modulations that Tameem Youness brings to the song’s only phrase, he somehow manages to evoke a different nuance of the expression “ay kalam” in each iteration, and conjure the full gamut of emotions felt by the broken-hearted lover: over the course of the song, his voice swings from incredulity to spite to contempt to dejection to resignation to finally the realization that in the big picture, you really ain’t all that.

For a full understanding of the lyrics of the song though, a word is in order on the Egyptian expression “ay kalam.” Literally meaning “any talk,” its most typical usage is to mean “nonsense” or “bullshit,” as in اللي انت بتقول ده أي كلام (what you’re saying is nonsense) or هو فهلاوي بيقول أي كلام (he’s a fast-talker who is always bullshitting). However, it also can be used to describe something as “ordinary” or “nothing special,” for example الأكل كان أي كلام (the food was nothing special).  In a related meaning, “ay kalam” refers to any work or activity that is done carelessly, sloppily or in a half-assed way, such as ده بيلبس أي كلام (he dresses in a sloppy way) or النجار عمل الكراسي أي كلام (the carpenter assembled those chairs in a shoddy way).

So when applied to a person, “enti ay kalam” would imply something like “you’re bullshit, ridiculous, trivial, basic, nothing special, whatever, a shoddy piece of work, and I’m better off without you.” That’s quite a lot of meaning to pack into three words. In trying to come up with a translation for this song’s crucial expression, we wanted to find an equivalent in English that packs the same colloquial punch and encompasses a similar range of meaning and emotional coloring. Out of many possible options, we ultimately settled on the classic put-down: “you ain’t all that.”

So without further ado, here it is, our most challenging translation to date:

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that

انتي أي كلام

You ain’t all that انتي أي كلام
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