Mac Toot and Lisa White publish a comic about the Arabic language

Following the release of ‘Corona Bel Bechamel’ earlier this year, academic, artist and host Mac Toot has just released his collaboration with former AUC professor Lisa White: a brand new book on Arabic metaphors and morphology entitled “Rooted in the Body”. Morphology is a linguistic subject that studies the internal structure of words, and this book explores the parts of our rich vocabulary that are derived – of all things – from body parts in Arabic.

“It’s about how you can get one verb form from another and how you can make educated guesses about the meaning of a new word using this feature,” White told #CairoScene. “What this book does is take a semantic field, the body, and introduce you to this system in order to give non-native Arabic speakers some morphological muscle. But it’s also interesting for native speakers to learn how the body relates to words. For example, the word ‘izn’ or permission, comes from ‘ozon’ or ear. This is because in essence, what “ba3d eznak” means is “Lend me your ear “.

To complement White’s research, Mac Toot joined the project to give visual meaning to the written word. A professor at the AUC himself, Mac Toot (aka Mahmoud Shaltout) was related to White through a colleague, who taught at the AUC for three decades. Using his illustrations in his own curriculum, the illustrator and scholar decided to do the same for White. “I met White in 2017, she described her project to me, I went back and did some rough sketches, and the next thing you know, we decided to pursue it further into a whole book” , Shaltout told #CairoScene.

The illustrations are peppered with celebrities and pop culture references including Mo Salah, Anthony Hopkins, Faten Hamama, Shadia, Da Vinci, and Karl Marx among a plethora of others. “I had to get to grips with the morphology and interpret it through illustration, which was the hardest part of it all,” Shaltout adds.

The title is now available on Amazon for pre-order.