What Does Döner Mean?

Yes, just what indeed does the word ‘döner’ mean, Döner Fans? Although we all love this tasty snack, some enjoyers of the ‘meaty mistress’ (as she is sometimes known) are unaware of what the word actually means. Permit me a short lesson on Turkish grammar.

Döner is a Turkish word, based on the verb ‘dönmek’ meaning ‘turn’. Adding the grammatical ending ‘er’ to the stem ‘dön-’ signifies a characteristic action, therefore meaning something like ‘thing that turns’. The full Turkish term is ‘döner kebap’ or, more correctly, ‘döner kebabı’, more or less meaning ‘the kebab that turns’. Fascinating!

Turkish grammar: I often find myself over-using number 7

While the döner is of course the superior meal, related snacks also exist in the form of gyros and shawarma. Gyros, similarly, is Greek for ‘turn’, while shawarma is most likely an Arabic adoption of another Turkish word ‘çevirme’ [chev-ear-may] which also means ‘turn’. Fancy that, Döner Fans!

In the olden days, before the vertical rotisserie was invented in the 19th century, people in the Ottoman Empire used to roast their meaty snacks horizontally over hot coals or a fire, a tradition that is still carried on today in the eastern Turkish province of Erzurum. However, it was the great man İskender Efendi who developed the vertical grill which was to change the face of rotisserie cuisine forever. It is him we have to thank for the rotating meat-stick of joy that now graces our kebab-houses, and he even lent his name to a particularly delicious variety of döner meal: the iskender kebab, still associated with his home city of Bursa where it is considered a local delicacy.

An example of the famous iskender kebab

So there you have it: the simple beauty behind the word ‘döner’, and a little background information to help you place it in its historical context. I hope that answered your questions, Döner Fans!

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

The Dr Döner Guide To Speaking Turkish Part 1

Hello again, Döner fans. I hope this finds you well. The heat in Berlin is sweltering at the moment, and the kebabs are glistening in the sun in that greasy, meaty way which we have all come to know and love. Seduced by this meaty vision, you will likely be tempted into the shop to buy yourself a little slice of happiness. As you procure your kebab from your chosen vendor, you may feel moved to exchange a few friendly words – after all, what activity brings humanity closer together than the procurement of kebab meat? Buying a kebab is the perfect opportunity to strike up conversation with kebab-sellers, kebab-eaters, passers-by, tourists, vagabonds and indeed anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity. Clutching your newly-purchased meat-flavoured social lubricant in your hand, you can proceed to engage people in idle banter.

Kebabs bring out the best in everyone.

Of course, the personnel at your chosen Dönerladen will speak fluent German and you can quite happily conduct the entire transaction in this language. But think how flattered and delighted they will be when you throw in a smattering of Turkish! Why not start off the encounter with a cheerful cry of “iyi günler” [ee-yee goon-lair] (good day) as you approach the counter? That should get the ball rolling. And, if you happen to be purchasing your kebab in the evening, why not try “iyi akşamlar” [ee-yee ack-sham-lar] (good evening)? Smiles will break out all around and you will find yourself at the centre of much warmth and attention. Upon receipt of your döner, be sure to thank the vendor with a friendly “sağ ol” [saa oll] (thank you). Then, as you leave the shop, you can repeat one of the two greetings shown above in order to round off what should, by all accounts, have been a very successful and gratifying trip to the Dönerbude. Equipped with these basics, you can proceed to charm your way in and out of every kebab-seller’s heart. You’re welcome, Döner fans.

Sometimes the kebab is just that good.

NB. these phrases will only work if your kebab-seller is Turkish. Otherwise you will most likely be greeted with bafflement. Do not attempt these phrases in a shawarma shop, because the personnel are unlikely to be Turkish.

To Recap: What Have We Learned?

“iyi günler” [ee-yee goon-lair] (good day)

“iyi akşamlar” [ee-yee ack-sham-lar] (good evening)

“sağ ol” [saa oll] (thank you)

Images sourced from merkelfordert.tumblr.com and www.arcaajans.com/letslearnturkish