Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cries of water in fiction and reality

I thought I had left Turkey for now, but i have to get back there in this blog. I have to write about an epiphany that was brought to my by the wonderful clash of nerddom and reality. Or should I say between the perceptions of water sellers in Arrakis and Istanbul.

It was in Taksim

Taksim is the modern center of Istanbul. While the average tourist quickly visits Tapkapı, Hagia Sofia, (Aya Sofia) and Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) and maybe, maybe fights her way along the narrow streets up to Sulimaniye mosque many never even crosses the Golden Horn and have no idea about the real city center, that is Taksim a few kilometers north of the tourist quarters. (See this map)

I don't even think I noticed it the first time we went to Taksim, but one of several times there I hear immediately when we get out of our bus: "Soo, sook soo. Soo, sook soo". Boys are selling 0.5 litre water bottles and yelling this "Soo, sook soo. Soo, sook soo. Sook soo. Sook soo." Anyone who bothers to read these ramblings should understand that I was directly transported to Arrakis (and to all our ignorant friends, we are talking about the cult classic Dune by Frank Herbert).

Water sellers on Arrakis have two distinct yells for making themselves heard: "Soo soo sook" and "Ikhut eight". When this is originally explained in the book it says that the origin is "unknown". From when I first read this book about ten years ago I took that as a nod to the reader that its origin lies in our world. The authentic Turkish yell above should be spelled "Su, soğuk su" and means simply "Water, cold water". "su" should be pronounced as the Swedish "so", speakers of English will never be able to learn anyway, so don't even try. "soğuk" is a bit harder, but first of all skip "ğ", this "soft g" is a very arcane letter and only Turks understand the difference. "o" sound very similar to a Swedish 'å', so you have something like: "Su, såok su".

When I understood that I had to write this I wondered if someone else on Google has noticed this. Not quite it seems, but partly. I found a nice page about Arabic and Islamic themes in Frank Herbert's "Dune". About this the writer Khalid says:

Water-seller's cry on Arrakis. Sook is a market place. In Turkey, street vendors will peddle juice by shouting 'Suyu'. 'Su' also means drink.

So he misses the part of the expression, but he should be excused since it seems like his main point is the arabic influences. He has no explanation for Ikhut Eight, though. I really thought this to be arabic.

On a bus over the Bosphorous

There. On a crowded bus I saw a man filling in a character sheet. Only once, but it's fantastic, right?


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