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How to be gracious, polite, and modest in Turkish

Online Turkish Language Learning
Tips, Tipoffs, Tricks, Traps, Techniques, Curiosities, and Oddities...

A modest Estağfurullah

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We paraphrase our giant-sized Redhouse Turkish to English Dictionary that gives the meaning of this tongue-twisting (though very polite) Turkish word as...

Estağfurullah; Don't mention it; don't say so; not at all.
And it's pronounced: eh-STAH-foo-rool-lah

Around where we live it's used [modestly] by Person B in response to Person A's expression of (excessive) thanks or (high) praise --
by Person B in response to Person A's self-critical remarks.

For example...

Person A: I can't thank you enough, Person B...
You saved my life!
Person B: Estağfurullah, Person A. Don't mention it.
I'm glad I could help...

Ahmet: You speak Turkish like a native, Maureen...
I'm very impressed.
Maureen: Estağfurullah, Ahmet...
Don't say such a thing. Perhaps one day...

Marvin: I was such an idiot, Mabel...
for dropping my false teeth into your bowl of soup.
Mabel: Estağfurullah, Marvin. Not at all...
They added a special tang to the broth. burp ĝ¤°`°¤ĝ,¸¸,ĝ¤°
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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And Kathryn K likes it especially for its
Turkish crowd-pleasing attributes.
She says...

"My all time favorite gracious (and heart-melting) Turkish expression is 'estağfurullah'. It's original Ottoman meaning was, I ask the pardon of God -- and it was used to convey the idea, I'm sorry, but it's true...

Nowadays, of course, it can be used to show polite modesty,
while accepting someone's compliments...
Once, when I was in a supermarket check-out line, I struck up a conversation with the cashier who praised my Turkish --
to which I replied 'estağfurullah'.
The elderly gentleman in line behind me overheard and
interrupted politely to ask how I'd learned the expression.
When I was able to specify its Ottoman roots,
he showered me with even more praise...
(this time about my  'complete and accurate knowledge')
to which I again replied
My second correct usage of the word
(in the space of less than a minute)
brought smiles and nods of approval from the man, the cashier --
and everyone else within eavesdropping distance !

You can not miss with this word...
I teach it to all my recently arrived foreign friends.

And when (in June 2003) the American ambassador to Turkey was caught on video-tape using this word graciously at an informal gathering of Turkish well-wishers, well by golly,
it made the Evening News
on every major Turkish TV channel...
all gushing in praise of
his Turkish fluency.

To which we say...
rule estağfurullah!
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Posted by Damon Della Fave 4 August 2009

Re: Estağfurullah, Polite Turkish

Just got my hands on the article I mentioned in my previous e-mails. The name of the article is Turkish Politeness and the Use of Estağfurullah by Arın Bayraktaroğlu at The Cambridge Centre for Languages (Ed. Ms. Bayraktaroğlu is the author of Culture Shock! Turkey, the most useful short book on Türkiye you'll ever read -- despite what the cry-baby reviewers at Amazon.com may say.)  I will cite the most relevant part of the article here:

"Estağfurullah can be used not only after addressee or referent honorifics, but in a number of situations of interactional imbalance, including certain types of compliments, self-degradations, thanks and apologies. Self-degradation is responded to with Estağfurullah unconditionally, but Turkish speakers are selective when it comes to compliments. Estağfurullah is not used in response to appreciative comments about possessions and appearance, possibly because these are considered to be temporary, ephemeral gains. Instead, it is reserved for praises of continuous achievements, skills or positive personality traits like Çok akıllısınız 'You are very clever'; speaker/addressee comparisons: Sizdeki yetenek bende olsaydı 'If only I were as skilful as you are'; superlatives: Bu oyun için sizden iyi seçim olmaz 'You are the best choice for this play'; and exaggerations, usually metaphoric, such as Ödüllü bir dev verecek 'A giant will present the award' (referring to a very famous author who is about to give the "best story writer of the year award" to its winner). Estağfurullah is not the only response one can find at these conversational points. For instance, Bir şey değil 'It's nothing' after thanks, Rica ederim 'Not at all' after thanks and apologies, Beni mahcup ediyorsunuz 'You make me feel ashamed' and Teveccühünüz 'Your kindness' after compliments, Hiç de değil 'It's not like that all', or any other unallocated words to the same effect after self-deprecative remarks are also possible -- but, Estağfurullah is the most common one with the widest usage, regardless of the speakers' age, sex, social status and roles."  

I tested my Turkish wife on these variations without telling that she was being used as a kobay (guinea pig), and everything Arın Bayraktaroğlu said was pretty much on the mark. So, compliments on being the most handsome man or most beautiful woman should probably not elicit an Estağfurullah, instead something like Yok canım would do the trick. But compliments on how good someone's Turkish is would be prime Estağfurullah territory. I intend, of course, to keep my ears open for more evidence, but this article I think adds some important points to your already informative webpage. Now, if I could only find an article on Aşk olsun. :-)

Tüm erkek giyim markası fırsatları için tıklayın !

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  • Essential Turkish Vocabulary
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  • Essential Idioms, Index
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  • Sentence Structure, Standard
  • Turkish Pronunciation
  • Turkish Accenting
  • Turkish Numbers Revealed
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  • In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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