يا

English translation: once upon a time

GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
Arabic term or phrase:كان يا ما كان
English translation:once upon a time
Entered by: Muhammad Atallah

09:03 Jul 7, 2009
Arabic to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - Folklore / Storytelling
Arabic term or phrase: يا
Greetings,

Please, what is the exact meaning of يا in كان يا ما كان?

Many thanks,

Simon
SeiTT
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:17
once upon a time
Explanation:
كان يا ما كان = once upon a time
Selected response from:

Muhammad Atallah
Egypt
Local time: 15:17
Grading comment
many thanks very good indeed
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +5once upon a time
Muhammad Atallah
4 +2oh how often/ how much
Nesrin
5O
samah A. fattah


Discussion entries: 4





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +5
كان يا ما كان
once upon a time


Explanation:
كان يا ما كان = once upon a time

Muhammad Atallah
Egypt
Local time: 15:17
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic
Grading comment
many thanks very good indeed

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Taleb Ebrahim - Arabic - English - Turkish Professional Conference Interpreter Translator
21 mins

agree  Miftah Muman
27 mins

agree  Ghada Samir
1 hr

agree  Mohamed Kamel: Right and Nesrin is also right, but in this context Muhammad wins.
1 hr

neutral  Nesrin: That's what the whole expression means, but not really the asker's question... :-( // Please see the added note to my answer
1 hr

agree  sktrans
3 hrs
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18 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
يا ما
oh how often/ how much


Explanation:
As Muhammad says, the whole expression means "once upon a time", but you may know that already.
يا is to be seen together with ما. The expression يا ما is a very common one in several dialects, and means something like "oh how often", e.g.
يا ما كنا نلعب هنا = Oh how often we used to play here.
So in the expression كان ياما كان it means something like:
Once, and as so often happens,...

ياما is also often used to mean "a lot" by certain people
e.g. كان فيه ناس ياما means "there were a lot of people"
in that case the expression كان ياما كان could be understood to mean:
Once, and oh how much has happened,...

But nowadays, we just look at the expression as a whole, so nobody really thinks about what it originally meant.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 hrs (2009-07-07 13:33:38 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Hi Simon,

It may also be interesting for you to know that there is a similar expression in classical Arabic (similar to يا ما NOT TO كان يا ما كان !!! Just to make myself clear!!!) which is طالما or لطالما or يا طالما which means "oh how often", just like the ياما used in colloquial Arabic.
See e.g.
فلا تُعاتبْ دموعاً أنت صاحبُها يا طالما جَريُها حنَّى أناميلَكْ!

My impression is that this ياما is a contraction of يا طالما
So
كان يا طالما كان would literally be: There was, and oh, how often there was...
NOT A TRANSLATION I WOULD OPT FOR, I should make myself clear. As it is now used simply in the sense of "Once upon a time".

Nesrin
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:17
Native speaker of: Arabic

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Ghada Samir
56 mins

neutral  Muhammad Atallah: Please see my second discussion entry.
3 hrs

agree  zax: يا in this case can not stand alone. ياما can
7 hrs
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6 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
O


Explanation:
O Muhammad be my best child

samah A. fattah
Egypt
Local time: 15:17
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic
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