Strolling through the suq one day in Tripoli in 1972, my wife and I passed a fabric store, little more than a hole in the wall. The shopkeeper popped out and held up a piece of rather ugly fabric for us to admire, saying that it was [tˤaftˤa] (with both ts pharyngealized). I smiled and produced an alveolar click to indicate my lack of desire to buy the stuff, and strolled on, wondering whether I should go back to find out how he had come by the term. The English word taffeta, you see, comes from the Persian taafta, the participle of tab- ‘weave’; how had Tripolitanian Arabic come by the word? From Persian or English? The shopkeeper wouldn’t know.
Later, I thought I had it. He had pharyngealized the ts, as Maghrebi Arabic speakers tend to do with loans from English and other European languages, as in [batˤatˤa] ‘potato’. So it must have come from English taffeta. I congratulated myself on my detective work.
Alas, I had jumped too quickly to my conclusion. A few months later, I happened to be at the airport, whence a flight was leaving for Iran. There above the check-
James Darmesteter once referred to the Pashto habit of retroflexing dentals with no particular reason (no conditioning nearby r or anything) as ‘cerebralisation abusive’. It seems that the Maghrebi Arabic speakers are going in for a bit of abusive pharyngealization (cf. Deep Throat), to the point that we’ll never figure out where they borrow their words.