17

About the word:

In Persian, Saghi is someone who pours wine and hands it. In Iran, when friends gather to drink wine together, they sit around and one of them (with a rather higher social status among them) pours wine into a glass and first drinks it himself, then pours another one (into the same glass) and hands it to the next person. Then the third person drinks and so on ... until all persons in the circle have their turns, so at the end of the first round, all have taken a gulp of wine. Then, the Saghi starts over distributing wine until they are all done. Sometimes Saghi is not one of the friends in the circle. In these cases, it may be a male or female servant who serves others.

This tradition has been in place for more than one thousand years and there are a lot of poems praising saghi (for his/her beauty or kindness or ....).

I have looked up this word in google translator and it suggests butler that does not seem to be correct. Other equivalents that I have come up with are bartender, barman, and barmaid that do not seem to be correct.

Have you any idea what word can we use when translating texts (especially poems) containing this word? Thank you very much.

  • 2
    The word closest in meaning I can think of is sommelier, but that doesn't encompass all the meanings of the word you've described. – Tragicomic Oct 2 '15 at 4:57
  • 9
    I think simply host. It's not particularly fitting, as you see something like geisha translated into hostess, but host/hostess would usually imply the facilitator of the evening while also allowing for it alternatively to be someone compensated for their ability to engender enjoyment by the guests. – stevesliva Oct 2 '15 at 6:31
  • 1
    By analogy to "Water boy", the one who keeps a group (as of football players) supplied with drinking water, "Wine boy" (or wine girl) is a possibility that conveys the idea of team, but not the drink sharing. – Graffito Oct 2 '15 at 13:34
  • 1
    Sounds like good camaraderie. – Nick Gammon Oct 3 '15 at 7:39
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    Somewhat humorously, you may be able to get away with using mother, though that usually refers to tea, not wine (and doesn't include the whole pass-the-cup-around ceremony). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 3 '15 at 8:56
30

If you want to know what word to use when translating poems, I think it would be best to look at what human translators have used in the past, rather than turning to Google Translate. Here is a poem translation "Saghi-Nameh" where the word "bearer" is used (the term "wine bearer" might be used to clarify the meaning).

Two other terms, "wine server" and "cup bearer," are listed in this Wikipedia article: Persian Wine.

To me, "wine bearer" and "cup bearer" sound old-fashioned, but the custom itself would probably seem old-fashioned in English-speaking countries. The term "wine server" sounds less old-fashioned.

  • 1
    The only problem with "wine server" or "cup bearer" is that they make it sound like a chore or something someone does quietly unnoticed in the background, like a waiter. It sounds like a "saghi", however, is an esteemed role that is more central to proceedings – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 3 '15 at 8:37
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    A cup-bearer was never a servant @user568458 – Ben Oct 4 '15 at 9:59
  • @Sumelic There is a "musical version" of the concept "Saghi Nameh" see for example youtube.com/watch?v=atSFajDLOLI – Ali Taghavi Oct 25 '17 at 12:23
  • @AliTaghavi: Thanks for the link! That was fun to listen to – herisson Oct 26 '17 at 1:02
20

As saghi is a typical Persian thing I don't think you will find an English word that would fit. I would take the Persian word and give a short explanation as "the cupbearer" or "he or she who pours the wine for the guests".

14

We don't have any traditions involving wine like that, so there really isn't a word for that person. (It certainly isn't a butler). A person who pours you wine in a restaurant is a waiter and if that person is a wine expert they may have the title sommelier

A sommelier (/ˈsɒməljeɪ/ or /sʌməlˈjeɪ/; French pronunciation: ​[sɔməlje]), or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. The role is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter: in fine dining today, it has been opined that, the role is strategically on a par with that of the executive chef or chef de cuisine.

But sommeliers are generally unknown to the diner, and certainly would never drink from the same glass the customer does and their services are only provided professionally in the restaurant.

  • 1
    +1 Ah! I see you were typing out an answer while lazy ol' me was typing out a comment. Excellent! – Tragicomic Oct 2 '15 at 5:01
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    Actually very often / almost always the sommelier does NOT pour the wine. Basically she will help you choose a bottle (and indeed generally manages the wine stock of the restaurant). Typically after the sommelier helps you choose a bottle, the "ordinary" waiters will decork, and indeed pour. Sometimes the sommelier will decant the wine personally; again it's then more likely the waiters will actually pour it for you. – Fattie Oct 2 '15 at 17:17
  • And as Jim has already explained nicely, a sommelier is not, really, like a saghi as described. – Fattie Oct 2 '15 at 17:17
9

It's always tricky to translate words for ethnically-specific customs and roles. Sommelier and waiter are certainly wrong, as both words denote employees in a commercial establishment; so do barman,barmaid, etc. And as it seems that a saghi can be either the host, one of the guests, or a servant; which means that host or butler aren't equivalent, either.

I would go for cupbearer. That will alert an English-speaking reader that this person has a formal role in serving the wine (which is as much as you can hope to convey without adding a footnote about the custom) without any incorrect implications about their status.

  • 1
    Along the same lines, you can personalize this role by referring to the person performing the service as Hebe (female) or Ganymede (male), the names of the cupbearers to the Greek gods. Both names appear in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary, though I doubt that either one is familiar to most English speakers. – Sven Yargs Oct 2 '15 at 8:13
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    Hi Sven, it's absolutely admirable that you knew Hebe and Ganymede were a coupla cupbearers, but these two terms are of no use whatsoever in English. Ormoz should not use these. – Fattie Oct 2 '15 at 19:26
  • I would generally agree, Joe, though because the OP did say "especially poetry", it doesn't seem totally irrelevant. While neither personality is by any stretch a translation of saghi normally, if the poem in question was "Ode to my Saghi" or something, it's plausible that "Ganymede" could be valid if used carefully and other verse had already established that we mean the role of the cupbearer and not, say, a mortal so hot Zeus had to eagle on down to earth for a quick afternoon abduction. – Semicolon Oct 4 '15 at 4:37
9

You could use it as a loan word...

The English language tends to just pinch words from other languages when it doesn't have one of its own. Since the saghi is a unique custom, probably the most standard thing would be to simply use the Persian word, Saghi. In writing people often use italics when using a word that is unlikely to be familiar (e.g. "I played the role of saghi for the first time yesterday").


...or use "Master of ceremonies"

Alternatively, you'd find a general category which saghi would be one type of. It's not host (they aren't necessarily the host, though they do act a little like a host), and it's a central esteemed position unlike a server, so I think the closest would be Master of ceremonies, a general term for the person who controls the running order or rituals at social events with a prescribed plan.

From Mirian-Webster:

Master of ceremonies

a person who determines the forms to be observed on a public occasion

a person who acts as host at a formal event

It's a broad, flexible term used for everything from big stage shows to intimate rituals, and the meaning will be understood in any context.


...you can combine the two

Here are a couple of examples of "master of ceremonies" being used to help introduce a tradition-specific role of leader in a semi-formal social drinking event, somewhat similar to saghi:

  • Georgian "Tamada", who leads everyone's drinking and is usually the most esteemed or senior person at a social gathering (also translated "toastmaster" because they make speeches and toasts each time everyone drinks):

a tamada (master of ceremonies; toastmaster) is the most important figure at a feast...

The Chairman's role as "Master of Ceremonies" is a very important both at the start and during the entertainment to control "who does what, when"...

...or shorten it to "wine master"

"Master" is a general term for someone who is in control of something. I'd say it fits better than "wine server" because it gets across that this is an esteemed role.

For example, the person in charge of a Japanese tea ceremony is often referred to in English as a "tea master".

4

It's a position that doesn't really exist in English-speaking cultures, so any one word translation will miss a lot, this one included.

If the Saghi is also in the position of hosting the others at the gathering, or it is the host's servants taking the position, you might translate it as host, or host's servants. Host implies that the one pouring has certain duties to their guests, even if it isn't the exact ones of a Saghi. A host is responsible for making sure their guests are comfortable, and have food or drink if they want it. A person can be a host in a public place if they are the ones who brought the group together, or are paying for the outing.

But if the Saghi is not also the host, then host is not appropriate.

3

As rogue and karen have nicely explained, we don't have Saghi in English.

The closest is when you rather reverently say,

would you pour for us?

or similarly would you carve (the meat) for us?

(Indeed somewhat similarly, you may pass the blessing of the food to a particular guest, a child who's coming along, or the like .. "Would you say the blessing for us, Steve?" .. sort of thing.)

In certain settings, you would ask this of perhaps an honoured or loved guest ..

Would you pour the wine for us?

It carries a certain weight (certainly somewhere like cote d'or); there's a saghi-like weight there.

You could imagine a passage like "Steven, who was pouring for us, calmly spoke of the days ..." That would be something like in Persian, "Steven, our saghi tonight, calmly spoke of the days ..."

Ormoz, this is the best sense you'll probably get in English of the beautiful Saghi concept.

3

The generally accepted loan word in English for this term is saki or saqi. Obviously, this is a special word which is usually used in literature or technical contexts. If you want a more common term in English like it is mentioned in some other answers, it might lose the unique meaning it has.

Translators usually use saki or saqi but sometimes wine-bearer, cup-bearer, winebringer and even skinker. Here is a list of translations from the book Hafiz, Master of Persian Poetry: A Critical Bibliography (By Parvin Loloi):

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Saki is mentioned as a loan word in the The Persian Contributions to the English Language: An Historical Dictionary (By Garland Hampton Cannon, Alan S. Kaye) also:

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