One-Eight: The Aramco Effect

Here in Saudi Arabia, we commonly call pick-up trucks “waneet.” I wonder if any of my Saudi readers have ever tried to know where does that word come from. Turki Al Dakheel (Arabic) says this word, like many words that we use in our everyday life, especially in the Eastern Province, has something to do with Saudi Aramco. Back in the days, when Aramco was still in its infancy, they had several missions for oil prospection and exploration. As these mission were located in remote areas where basic supplies are not available, pick-up trucks had to visit them periodically to provide them with life necessities. These truck used to carry serial numbers which started with (18). Employees started to call these trucks which supplied them with food and water “one-eight,” which over time has become “waneet.” Aramco were the first to bring such trucks to the country, and therefore people eventually called every pick-up truck that has come later “waneet,” inside and outside Aramco.

The effect of the oil company on life in the Eastern Province was not limited to language. The presence of Aramco has also affected people’s lives in the region on many different levels. It is very rare that you would find anyone here who does not have a relationship – direct or indirect – with the company or someone who worked for them. My grandfather has worked as a driver for Aramco, but shortly left the company to go back to his original job as a carpenter. His eldest son, my uncle, used also to work for Aramco, and has recently retired. Saudi Aramco manifests the prefect example for a corporation that is wholly owned by the government. As one of the largest oil companies in the world, they are not only financially successful, but they also show a great commitment to the local community and environment. Some people say Aramco has changed very much since its management moved from the Americans to Saudis, and by this they mean it has been plagued by corruption and racism. However, if you ask any young man here about the job of his dream there is a big chance he would say “Aramco.”

29 thoughts on “One-Eight: The Aramco Effect

  1. Hah. ‘Waneet’ is used here in Bahrain also. See this post:

    It’s interesting how oil companies have influenced Arabic in the Gulf. Here are a couple more pidgin terms from the above link which are related to Bapco (the Bahrain oil company):

    Shughgul Shaddan – Double Time – when they’d give the generators at the oil factory (BAPCO) a rest, the refinery still had to work but on manual labor, so the employees would have to work extra hard. It was called “Shutdown work”, but thanks to the bahranization of the word, it morphed to shaddan..

    Jokum – Meaning risky or adventurous. Can be applied to an action, general behavior or a person “9ij jokum hal adimy!”. The foreman at BAPCO was an englishman named Joe, so when the employees were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, one of them would yell “Joe come!” as a warning.

  2. Many of the words there are pretty common around here too, especially with old people. Some of these are really funny actually; I liked this Jokum thing!

  3. Oooh! I grew up with the word “Waneit”, but since moving to Jordan, I’ve had to switch a lot of my vocabulary the locals don’t understand it, so now I say “Gallab”.
    Foreign influences on our vocabulary are fascinating… In Jordan it’s more extreme than in Saudi Arabia because of the English Mandate. For a list of Jordanian words that are originally English check out this post.
    To name a few;
    Benshar (flat tire): Puncture.
    Lumbah. Lamp.
    We also have a lot of Turkish influences on our dialect (via way of Ottommans who ruled the Levant for a very long time), and French. Language is fascinating…

  4. I have thought about this word before, and I suspected it had something to do with the numbers one eight. But let’s not jump to conclusions here. This is what is called ‘folk etymology’:
    There is no proof for this at all. If it’s true then why is it known in all gulf countries as waneit? Until there is proof I am filing this under ‘origin unknown’

    Other than this, there are a lot of funny examples of english use in eastern province dialect, mainly from aramco, and especially with matters regarding cars (motors) and DIY. Notorious examples ‘sekroob’ for screw driver and ‘3aks’ for axle. Dont forget ‘bol6’ (bolt) and ‘washer’ (washer). There are hindi words too like ‘baldi’ for bucket, and farsi like ‘zgert’

  5. Is there a possibility that it has started from here and then spread to other countries in the region?

    The examples you mentioned are stuff that I actually use everyday :-) But are you sure that ‘zgert’ from Farsi origin? Because in the same story, the writer says this word is derived from the English word ‘security’ because the Aramco security guys were extremely cool and everybody wanted to be like them.

  6. Yes there is a possiblity but there is no proof.

    You are giving too much credit to this story (which I think is an opinion piece not really a story). He said himself that he received this info from an email. We all know how reliable these are. I shouldn’t be surprised. This is saudi ‘journalism’ we’re talking about here.

  7. lol, I thought we called it that cuz it was 1/8 of a Truck or something, ya3ni logiclly thinking =\
    you’ll laugh if you hear my Dotsson story, I’ll make a post out of it I think :P

  8. Yes it is not easy. Don’t get me started on unrecorded history. In fact most of arabic language development is unrecorded, so this is not unique.

    Still, it is easy to verify if there is someone who still remembers those 18 trucks. This all sounds to me like an urban myth. Why not say that it actually started in bahrain and then spread? There is as much proof for this theory as in the aramco theory. It could very well be that it has something to do with the numbers, or maybe not. We just don’t know.

  9. Very nice tobic, I could still remember my grandmother pronounciations of (vecation=vocation, (hospital=ispitalia), (overtime=overtame) also the words shelf, jam, pencil, and many others.
    In term of family members, one time over a family lunch I looked around and every single male in my immediate family was aramco including a newly high school graduate nephew.. I thanked god I was not one of them.
    Aramco is nice, stable and I owe the company so much because my father sallery got me where I am right now, but it really sucks the blood of its employees..
    Also I believe they need to do more in terms of community resources, they are more powerful than anyone else specially in terms of education, health promotion..etc

  10. I agree that Aramco sucks the blood of their employees, but maybe that’s what makes them stands out among all other things related to government. BTW, nice blog you got there, keep it up.

  11. Interesting. I remember my husband telling me when we were first headed to Aramco that we couldn’t bring our truck – something about ex-pats not being allowed to have pick-up trucks here because we “might haul something” and take that “job” away from someone else [hardly likely that that would ever happen as the imported labor here would do whatever hauling is necessary for so much less it wouldn’t be worthwhile – and of course – imported labor is a whole other big issue, but…]. My husband also told me that it didn’t make sense for us to bring my Volvo over here – he’d never seen on [on the compound] and assumed we’d never be able to get parts for it. He was very wrong on that one. He could be wrong about pick-ups. I will say, however, that but for the Aramco pick-ups, there are NONE here.

  12. Hi…fascinating thread.
    Just wanted to add that the word Jokum is used in the same sense even in urdu in India…How do you explain that? And it’s not a new word that’s travelled from here to there coz even my great-grand parents used the term…Any theories?

  13. assalamu 3alaikum,
    this is called coinage in linguistics.
    like ZIP, KLEENEX, HOOVER, and other brand names that have become the everyday word for a certain product.
    and these words travel very quickly. so no wonder all Gulf countries call them “waneet”

    both Saudis and Americans call tissue paper”KLEENEX”

  14. Jokham is a Hindi/Urdu word meaning Difficult/Dangerous and has nothing to do with some supersmart “Joe”!

  15. hi there,
    nice information about 1-8 and about Aramco.
    well everyone’s dream is to work some day in Aramco but dreams are dreams you never when they are fulfilled. I personally rank Aramco as one of the best company to work for. And I am very happy that management has been passed over to the Saudi Government and Saudi’s are getting employed. but i do not see anything wrong in this as being an honorary citizen of such a flourishing country you should deserve a job in atleat a government sector. I totally disagree with peoples saying that saudi’s are not good workers coz no one has understood what they really wanted and what types of Job they would fit in but now the Saudi Government is allocating lots of the Jobs for the Locals and i am sure that i will bear successful fruits as they are fast workers and tend to finish the job on time. and hats up to Saudi’s for being kind to expatriates and offering us the jobs and making us the part of this growing Saudi Economy.
    I thank the King, Government and the citizens for their help and love provided which we could have got nowhere else in this beautiful country with beautiful peoples.

    I am a MBA graduate with specialization in Marketing and i hope if some days my services required for the Government and the peoples then i would be glad to be a part of this family.



  16. Throughout the kingdom water trucks are known as “whitaat” The first water trucks imported into Arabia were made by the White Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio and the name stuck.

    Similarly, I’m told that the license issued for a heavy or semi-truck operator in KSA is officially called a Kenworth license after the giant trucks that Aramco used to build the company.

  17. The word in arabic “Late” or in english light is also from aramco. Another one is “Lamba” or in english Lamp. Actualy 1-8 was the number of the garage the truck was parked in, The superintendant would tell the Saudi driver in aramco to bring the truck but the saudi drivers were limited in thier english language skills at that time. So the superintendent in aramco would tell the saudi driver to bring 1-8 refering to the garage number the truck was parked in. Also “Tendan” or in english Superentendant.

  18. Waneet… mumtazz! I lived and worked in the Eastern Province from 1975 to 1980 and my Aramco Sccottsdale Waneet had 1420 on the doors. It was a wonderful time! Out east of Abqaiq (Bucca), in the middle of nowhere I ran across a Dodge Powerwagon from the 1950’s. It was in Aramco red and white colors and had the hood up. I looked like someone had engine trouble and just left it there to become a small museum. I have a photo of it sitting alone on the subkah. I have always wondered if quit in the summer and if the driver got back ok. I spent a good deal of time in helicopters and many times early in the morning and late at night I would see the faint tracery of what were ancient walls, or streets or irrigation chanels that the low light angle would expose. There is so much history in the country, I hope that all the old things are revered and not traded for the chrome-and-glass of modernity. Does anyone know if the Turkish fort at Hafer Al Batin is still there? I look regularly on Google Earth to find it, but the town has grown beyond any thing I can recognise. Very best to you all.

  19. I know this is a little outdated, and it’s almost been a year since the last comment was posted, but I think it’s useful to note that in one of Saudi Aramco’s 75th anniversary publications (I think this one was a supplement to their weekly publication, the Qafilah and the Arabian Sun), they published a story about the ‘waneet’ and, effectively, confirmed the story.

  20. That’s great! Now! It is clear that ‘waneet’ is ‘one-eight’ transliterated, an enigma clarified. what is the explanation for ‘six’: why the big dump trucks are called ‘six’ locally in ksa?

  21. I asked my dad that question once. That was the answer he gave me. I didn’t believe him.:p I’m always suspicious like that, don’t ask why. Thank you for confirming its source.

    ” Some people say Aramco has changed very much since its management moved from the Americans to Saudis, and by this they mean it has been plagued by corruption and racism.”

    I don’tbelieve this is true. Before, Americans were given the upper hand because they discovered it, they acted as if it were theirs. Of course, that is all in teh past. Now, most people are treated fairly in the company…Other than the occasional problems here & there, which I agree should be dealt with. Glad I came across this.

  22. hey aramco peoples listn very very carefully i am a catter and i love to catter aramco peoples becouse my father served that company for 14 long years as a heavy duty driver.and never got any accident..tata tata

    • Sarfraz Khan–I’m sorry but I didn’t understand. Do you mean that you are a caterer (you prepared food for banquets, parties, conventions etc) and you would like a job at Aramco as a caterer? Or is a catter a wildcatter, ie someone who drills oil wells?

  23. I was a driver at geophysical Service Inc Saudi arabia Ltd.
    from 2-09-19976 to 7-09-1990 Having # 99728
    Driving License 9849\M
    Nationality Pakistani, if any body in aramco company personly know me plz forword my requiest that i need a job in aramco again at any position for the reward of my 14 long years in aramco.

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