Let Me Be Your Hiccup

Kellen Waits (Image Source: Chris Gratien)

Lesson 17 | -ken While

Esmeray circa 1970s (Source: uludağsözlük)
In English, we combine independent clauses using conjunctions such as "and" or conjunctive adverbs such as "while". Turkish, as we've already seen in a few songs, does possess such conjunctions such as "ve (and)". But the more common way of joining sentences is using grammatical endings. In Lesson 13, we learned about -erek, which means while. In the last lesson, we learned an adverbial form that performs a similar function in words like "seve seve" and "bile bile". Here we have two means of expressing a similar meaning through the endings of -ken and -ince.

The singer in this lesson is Esmeray. She was another of the iconic singers of the 1970s period that has featured so regularly in our lessons this far. She was also one of the most recognizable pop culture figures of the Afro-Turk community, people spread throughout Turkey most of whom trace their descent to the legacy of the Ottoman slave trade.

The song, "Unutama Beni (Don't Be Able to Forget Me)", is one of her first singles released on 45 during the 1970s and one of the most famous. After she passed away in 2002, one ekşisözlük reader endearingly joked that she was "a nice woman" but "someone who is still greatly respected even though the number of victims driven to suicide by her song 'Unutama Beni' is at least 10 times that of [Murat] Kekilli" and therefore "the one who pushed me to deep thoughts on the subject of society's hypocrisy." In other words, "Unatama Beni", unforgettable as it may be, is one of those many classic love songs that veers dangerously towards self-destructive and psychopathic obsession. But in a good way, right?

In this lesson, I'd like to highlight a few grammar points, some of which we will deal with later at greater length. The first is the ending -ken, which comes from the word "iken" and can be added to the end of any verb to convey the meaning of "while/when". In the last verse of this song, -ken is added to the end of a number of -ir verbs (see Lesson 14). She says:

Sevişirken, öpüşürken
Yapayalnız dolaşırken

Unutmaya çalışırken
Unutama beni

You can find the translation below or figure out the meaning on your own using the vocab list, but what I want to highlight here is that although the subject of the verbs "sevişirken" and "çalışırken" and the like is "you" or "sen", there is no verbal pronoun ending on these verbs. We only understand the person of the subject from the imperative verb at the end of the sentence: "unutama" or "don't be able to forget."

In another verse, we have a similar function represented by the -ince, which means "while", "as", "when", or "by". It appears in the following line:

Ayrılığın acısını kalbinde duyunca unutma beni.

As you can see, -ince is added directly to the stem of the verb "duymak" meaning "to feel" or "to hear", also without an affix marking person. The -ince ending will be covered at greater length in Lesson 29.

This song also features two notable examples of a rare prefix in the Turkish language. One of the more unique features of Turkish is this intensifier prefixes that makes adjective more of whatever they are. In the song we have two words "kapkaranlık" and "yapayalnız" that bear this prefix. They are formed from the words "karanlık (darkness)" and "yalnız (lonely)". They carry the intensifiers "kap-" and "yapa" respectively. These are formed in imitation of the first syllable but don't have an exact pattern (you'll have to memorize them using this list). But the meanings they create are "pitch-darkness" and "all-alone". Note that both of these intensifier adjectives create meanings that we have special idiomatic ways of saying in English. This is true in many but not all cases of the intensifier adjective. For example, it's hard to find the perfect way of translating "bomboş" from "boş (empty)" or "besbelli" from "belli (clear)".

There are a few other interesting grammar points that will be good to memorize for now using this song and explore more deeply in subsequent lessons. For example, the verb "olayım" or "let me be" utilizes the -eyim ending covered in Lesson 19. Likewise, we'll learn about the grammatical difference between "unutma" and "unutama" in Lesson 25.


öpüşmek - to make out, to kiss each other
çalışmak - to work
dolaşmak - to wander, to walk around

boğaz - throat
hıçkırık - hiccup, sob
göz yaşı - tear
gölge - shadow, shade
adım - step
soluk - breath, break
ad - name
karanlık - darkness
kapkaranlık - pitch-darkness
yalnız - alone
yapayalnız - all alone

Esmeray - Unutama Beni

Boğazında düğümlenen hıçkırık olayım
May I be the sob that gets caught in your throat 

Here we can see the meaning of "hıçkırık" or "hiccup" is the kind of hiccup you make when crying and sobbing.

Unutma beni, unutama beni
Do not forget me, don't be able to forget me
Gözünden damlayamayan göz yaşın olayım
May I be your tear that cannot drop from your eye
Unutma beni, unutama beni
Do not forget me, don't be able to forget me

Gölgen gibi adım adım
Like your shadow, step by step
Her solukta benim adım
My name in every breath 

"Ad-ım" or "my name" cleverly rhymes with the word "adım" meaning step.

Ben nasıl ki unutmadım
Like I didn't forget you
Sen de unutma beni, unutama beni
You don't forget me either, don't be able to forget me

Bitmek bilmez kapkaranlık geceler boyunca
Throughout the pitch dark nights that don't know how to end
Unutma beni, unutama beni
Do not forget me, don't be able to forget me
Ayrılığın acısını kalbinde duyunca
While you feel the pain of separation in your heart
Unutma beni, unutama beni
Do not forget me, don't be able to forget me

Sevişirken, öpüşürken
When you make love, when you kiss (someone)
Yapayalnız dolaşırken
When you wander all alone
Unutmaya çalışırken
When you try to forget
Unutama beni, unutama beni
Don't be able to forget me, don't be able to forget me

We won't be leaving these sappy old songs anytime soon. Before moving onto Lesson 18: Come Back in September, try to learn the vocabulary for this lesson using the exercise below.

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