As the assistant manager for our flagship store in Calgary, I have an interest in knowing the kind of feeling our shop, and the goods we sell provide. I knew what that feeling is, but how to describe it? Are we here to make people feel dapper and well groomed? Are we here to make people feel confident in their look? Sure, all that, but there’s something that happens at the moment one uses the products we sell, and we we know now how to describe it.
I've been speaking with our company’s owner and namesake, Kevin Kent, about the quality of na’eeman. I was utterly unfamiliar with it before hearing him talk about it, so he took the time to write an email narrating his experience with this wholly new to me, yet necessary, concept!
My buddy Omar in London, originally from Algeria, asked me nearly monthly “How do you say bon appétit in English?”
I responded, “bon appétit.”
He never liked my answer. He thought I was keeping a secret from him. The English language has loads of words, more than most languages, but it does not have all of the words necessary. Na’eeman is an Arabic word that has been used in my house since we spent some time in Syria in 1999. We say it every time someone gets clean, brushes their teeth or washes their hands.
Na’eeman literally translated means “blissful” as in “I hope you had a blissful shower.” It is a celebration of the idea of being clean and fresh and hygienic. You almost shout it when some gets out of the shower. How do you feel after chopping wood and standing beside a fire for a weekend? DIRTY. How does it feel after you get out of the shower and have a shave? Na’eeman! It's like a verbal high five for being clean and looking good. “Congrats, you look great and smell awesome. Na’eeman!”
It's a word we need in English. Like the interior designer’s recent fave word, hygge. Or bon appétit. Or status quo. Or déjà vu.
I love feeling na’eemen. You know that feeling when you've just washed your hands? I love that fresh na’eeman feeling. Don’t you want to wash your hands now?
Kent of Inglewood is about feeling clean, being clean, looking good, smelling good. Or doing great things like chopping wood that make getting na’eeman even more wonderful.
Do you want to wash your hands now? I know I do, with warm, almost too hot water, rich fragrant soap and dry with a fluffy white towel. Na’eeman.
- Kevin Kent, owner of Kent of Inglewood
I did a little reading of my own, and while I cannot speak to any personal experience with na’eeman, here is what I thought of it based on my discussions with Kevin, the various pieces I read both by native Arabic-speakers, and English-speaking people who spent time in Arab cultures.
I love words that have no English equivalent. Most people are familiar with the German word schadenfreude which is that little private pleasure you take when something unfortunate happens to your annoying neighbour or social rival. It’s perfect! Everyone has that feeling, but we don't have a way of saying it in English. Danes have hygge (the warm, cozy feeling associated with being at home, curled up by the fire, maybe with a good book), the French, l'esprit d'escalier (having just the PERFECT comeback... an hour too late). And, as we’ve discussed, in Arabic, they have the concept of na’eeman, pronounced roughly like “NIGH-man”. There are a few different English spellings, but we’ve been using “na'eeman” as I've seen it most, and it “sounds” most like this to my ears.
Na’eeman is that feeling of a really good haircut. A nice shower. Of standing on the sand just after you got out of swimming in the sea. It translates to something like “blissful”, but it's exclusively used to compliment someone who's just come out of their shower, their hair appointment, or beard trim, etc. It's a feeling of satisfaction and comfort that you can see in the friend who’s just put a little effort into their personal care.