The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.

Translating “Frozen” Into Arabic by Elias Muhanna

Please explain what this comparison means. What does the writer want to convey here; how does Latin relate to French rap?

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    "In what way does Latin relate to French rap?" - it doesn't, that's the point. Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 18:45
  • Presumably it's talking about an Arabic-language version of the movie Frozen, and the writer is making a weak pun (on the word "frozen") by suggesting that the "flavour" of Arabic used the movie is old-fashioned (stuck in time, frozen). He compares this to the way French-Arab rap artists tend to use the rhythm of Latin quatrains. Which may or may not make sense. Personally I think maybe someone is getting mixed up with the "Quartier Latin" ouskirts of Paris, which used to be where all the artists hung out a century ago (because it was cheap). But now it's becoming a bit ghettoised. Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 18:54
  • @MichaelHarvey: I know nothing about French rap, but the cited text seems to be suggesting that it does incorporate Latin quatrain structures / rhythms. On reflection though, I think I should probably have just referred to French rappers above, not French-Arab rappers (if there''s any such thing! :) Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 19:00
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    Whatever - exactly this question was asked here years ago... Does this answer your question? What does this sentence's comparison mean? I shall go look to see what other people thought about it six and a half years ago! Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 19:02
  • "Great piece by Elias Muhanna for The New Yorker, on why Disney's Frozen has been translated into Modern Standard Arabic" Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


From the article, below, the subject is that a stilted, more traditional version of Arabic language is used rather than a modern one. Much is made of the fact that multiple translations are made for small populations of small countries while larger also disparate speaking countries have to get by with one or two. Arabic being one. The examples given demonstrate antique phrasing given as the translation rather than modern phrasing. Using "instigateth", never mind instigate. Why not just "cause", "create" or "do"? The odd choices are the consequence of the language choice.

He says that the the language "is frozen in time" that is to say stuck, fixed, and as such is as 'localized'" or relatable, recognizable, "to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap." That is to say it is not at all recognizable. It may be a poor choice to use two things that are not familiar to many of us to show how different two things are. Example:"Why this is no more a xygot than a perigous cleegon! Who are you kidding? Xygot indeed." Missing the context misses the comparison.

Finding similarities you search for in the two after further research does not improve things.

From the article: “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.