I Saw the Signs: CRP

February 19, 2007

Israel_2006_00037 The problem with Hebrew is that unless you’re going to use vowels (and believe me, most Israelis and their businesses don’t), you end up mistranslating this sign, which advertises Henri’s Creperie, as a business that sells “French Crap.” Or “French Carp.” In any case, I’m not buying.

Who are you kidding?

February 19, 2007

The term ישראבלוף (Israbluff) is simply a bluff, but what makes it different than a regular bluff? Every Israeli would be able to identify it as a bluff, where it may not be so obvious to others. In fact, to Israelis an Israbluff is so obvious and audacious, that the word itself is a derogitory term. Here are some examples of an Israbluf:

  • A government agency wants to pay their employee 10,000 Shekels a month. For some legal reason they are only allowed to pay 5,000 shekels a month. An easy way to get around this is a complex Israbluff. The agency simply withholds salary from its employee. According to the laws in Israel if you withhold salary from an employee, the amount due to the employee is multiplied every month. The employee plays his role in the Israbluff and sues his employer every 3 months for his salary. The employee will then earn his 10,000 shekels a month.
  • Bike stores in Israel used to have their bike racks on the sidewalks outside their shops. In fact, all retail stores took advantage of the extra floorspace outside their shop. A law was passed in Israel that prohobits all shops from using the extra sidewalk space, with the exception of cafes and restaurants. Bike stores became bike shop/cafes so they could use the sidewalk space outside their shop.
  • The Misrad ha Klita has a sign that reads “We are here to serve you”

After hearing these, Israelis would respond … איזה ישראבלוף (what an Israbluff).

La Chakalaka, La Chakalaka, Ya No Puede מסתובב…

February 19, 2007


Because the phrase, “spinning light” made too much f’n sense, a word had to be invented to describe the type of revolving light on emergency vehicles. That word:

Chakalaka (צ’קלקה).

If anyone knows where this ridiculous word comes from, and why it’s suddenly the only acceptable way to describe the police siren light thingy, please let me know.

Chaka-lotta nonsense to me… the only thing I (Eitan) found was this Wikipedia stub:


Aside from spelling “flavor” with that really annoying ‘u,’ this doesn’t give us much by way of an explanation into how a “spicy African vegetable reilsh” served with something called “pap” somehow lends itself to a description of an ambulance light.

Anyway, we came across this Chakalakasmic jam put together by our friends Pinhas & the Portuguese Crotch Flu. Seems to make sense…

For the full lyrics of the song, keep reading…

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a Good Chance that Sounds Awkward as Hell

February 18, 2007

Overheard in a conversation today:

(lo l’kachat “chance-im”) “לא לקחת “צ’נסים

This means “not to take chances.” Fair enough. Except, there’s already a word in Hebrew for chance, folks: (sicui) סיכוי

But, in typical hoity-toity style, some Israelis have to punctuate their speech with an awkward sounding English word with a Hebrew suffix tacked on the end of it.

I mean, what’s so cool about the word “chance?” It’s not even intuitive – it contains letters NOT in the Hebrew alphabet!


I Saw the Sign, and It Opened Up My Eyes

February 18, 2007

Israel_2006_00044_1Tel Aviv, July 2006:

The sign warns that the space is “private parking”, and further cautions that a vehicle which is zar (foreign or alien) y’garer, which presumably (from context) means “will be towed.”

But the word l’garer also reminds me of the word ger, which means convert. So when I see this sign, I prefer to translate it (albeit incorrectly) as:

“Private parking: An alien vehicle will be converted to Judaism.”

Why? Because it makes me laugh.


February 17, 2007


So, I’m sitting in a military truck-driving course (more stories to come on that) circa 2005 and hear the following:

ללחוץ ברקסים (l’lchotz brakes-im)

(To press the brakes)

Now, the English word “brakes” has a word in Hebrew, surprisingly enough: בלמים (blamim).

Just like l’des-ces. A word already exists that doesn’t sound retarded.

But, lo — they needed to bastardize a perfectly good (plural!) English word and add their own plural suffix to it: brakesim.

And, unlike “browniesim,” this is actually in use:

*Click on thumbnail for full-sized image.

tuvs, nav, arv, tch

February 17, 2007

I know … you’re thinking … huh?

The words tuvs, navs, arv, and tch have absolutely no meaning. Ask any Israeli named Ohad, and he’ll tell you what “tuvs” means. Any Israeli named Sarah will tell you what “arv” means. Any Israeli named Avi can tell you what “tch” means.

Let’s see if you can figure it out?


February 16, 2007

Know how you say “I was in shock” in Hebrew?

הייתי בשוק – (Hayiti B’Shock)

משעמם את התחת!!

February 16, 2007

So, I’m really happy with my part-time school thing. I won’t get much further into this, but it’s taught by a combination of really awesome enthusiastic American professors flown in for weeks at a time and really intelligent Israeli professors that teach here full time.

Just, one thing that surprised me — for some reason, the Israeli professors ALL share the tendency to literally go over the same exact concept 50,000 times. Hours. Same slide. Hours.

I’m writing this post while listening to one of them. Shame on them for letting us have wireless internet in the class. We’re learning Managerial Economics, and this guy is droning on about marginal revenue and marginal cost ad nauseum.

I just sent this to all those in class who are also connected to the internet:marginal-boredom-zabaj.jpg

*Click on thumbnail for full-sized image.

FW: Fan Mail 1

February 16, 2007

Fellow Zabajnikit Maya sent us some of her feedback(im?), largely consisting of some more very Zabaj.com-esque observations. I strongly suspect this was lifted from one of the many FW: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FW: FW: FW: RE: RE: – type e-mails we all get about Israel, but there’s some funny stuff in here nonetheless. Such as:

“You know you’re in Israel when you say you’re from Chicago and they say ‘Ah, Sheekago. Al Capone, ken?'”


“Gotta love the 70-year-old in the sweatshirt that says ‘Thirty and Sporty,’ or the 7-year-old girl with ‘Hello Boys’ on her tank top. Hello nothing! You’re 7!”

Kudos, Maya, keep up the Zi-buj (‘זיבוז).

Man, that’s such a ‘kitbeg question’

February 15, 2007

This one comes from my time in the army.

In fact, so much of Israeli culture stems from the army…the phrase

“שאלת קיטבג” (She’elat Kit-beg)

means, roughly, “kit-bag question.” I know, no help there, right? Here’s what a “kit-bag” looks like:


STILL no help, I know. It’s a bag you get in the army in which you keep all your uniforms, socks, lint, grease, and…dignity. sound icon

And here’s where that retarded phrase came from:

In basic training, they generally demoralize you by making you do things like run back and forth a lot (and things of that nature). So, imagine a commander telling his soldiers, “Run from here to that tree and back!” and some putz asking “with our kit-bags, or without?”

Thus the term “kit-bag question” was born. It usually describes the type of question that brings on some sort of misfortune just by virtue of it being asked. Asking a teacher, “but what about the homework for tomorrow?” would be a good example of a “she’elat kitbeg.”

Today, this term has kind of extended its use to describe just any kind of stupid question…and thus it’s lost some of its original (ridiculous) meaning…

Movie Titles

February 15, 2007

Lost in TranslationJust like we can write many posts about pronunciation mistakes in Israel, we can also do a lot on how Israel translates American movie titles. To get things started, I think its appropriate to discuss the movie Lost in Translation.

Israel isn’t the mother of irony for nothing. They couldn’t even translate this simple movie title to Hebrew. Instead, the name in Hebrew means – literally – Lost in Tokyo. How ironic is it that a movie title about missing translations is missed in translation? That, my friends, is an allegory for all of life in Israel.

DeuceOne more for fun:

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is translated as… ready? You’ll never guess! The Gigolo Dies from Laughter. Not kidding!

Carry on.

(thanks to Maya for reminding me of this whole thread)

It’s Getting Hot in Here

February 15, 2007

Last night I was trying to figure out how to operate the heater in my bedroom. It was about 11:00pm and I was too tired to read the Hebrew manual. What I wanted was for the heater to stay on about 20 minutes and then be off for a while – and to cycle like that all night. Instead, I left it on until I could get nice and toasty under the sheets and then turned it off using the remote control.

The remote control – it’s not just a game show on MTV. In my efforts to figure out the heater, I also read the back of the remote control. Here’s exactly what is printed there:

Infrared Remote Controller’s manual

    Use two pieces of AAA/1.5V alkaline cells. Don’t case them by improper direction into the box.
    Please take out all cells if device don’t be used longtime.
    Please replace all cells simultaneously by new ones if necessary.
    After replaced, please short the “RESET” button awhile, then you use the device easily.

The Israeli army supports Diesel clothing

February 14, 2007

I was driving home the other day, minding my own business, singing Copa Cabana at the top of my lungs. I soon noticed an Israeli army vehicle coasting alongside me. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something strange on the truck’s bumper.

As I tried driving closer to the car, matching its speed, I finally figured out what got my attention. There was a nice, bright Diesel bumper sticker on this official truck of the Israeli army. I suppose no other comments are necessary, the insanity speaks for itself. Sure, why not, next time we invade Lebanon it’ll be with advertisements for Diesel on our tanks. Below is the proof, exclusive for Zabaj readers, taken with my cheap camera-phone.

Army car 2deiseltruckedited.jpg

But I have a receipt!

February 14, 2007

One thing that I just can’t come to terms with in Israel is the return policy. Actually…the lack of a return policy. It is basically impossible to return anything in this country. Ever. Even if you have a receipt and visit the very same guy who sold you the thing in the first place.

Case in point. A friend of mine bought a wireless router when she moved into her new apartment. No big deal. You call tech support and someone helps you set it up. They’re all the same. Right? Well when she got home, we realized that her internet did not use a standard networking cable — rather a regular old phone cord. It was high speed internet over a regular phone line. I still haven’t figured THAT one out but whatever.

She and I took the router and the receipt back to the kiosk at the mall and told them that it was irrelevant. Her internet could not use the router because there was nowhere to plug it in. She had purchased it less than a week before and had all the parts, pieces and papers. And the guy told her he couldn’t take it back. He told us he would do us a favor and offer an exchange.

So we looked around at the other routers which were all totally useless as well. She didn’t need a new keyboard or a mouse. Didn’t need a web cam or a mouse pad. She didn’t need anything there. She wanted her money back.

It took more than 2 hours, many phone calls to the national headquarters, several sketches on scrap paper and a sob story about making aliyah and being all alone in this country before she lost her temper and demanded that he return her money RIGHT NOW. I think it scared him a little to have a 5’2″ blonde chick yelling at him.

He caved in, refunded her money and asked us to please not come back.

That, my friends, is the ONE and only time I’ve ever seen anyone successfully get their money back for anything in this country.

Clean up after yourself!

February 14, 2007

Scattered around Tel Aviv, you can find yellow boxes filled with these. Slightly reminiscent of Bears it Matters to me, at the top it saysSaki Kaki

כי לנו אכפת – “Because it matters to us.”

The cheeziness doesn’t stop there.
Next it reads:

רחוב נקי מתחיל איתי – “A clean street starts with me.”

What would you call this brilliant piece of marketing. What else but “Saki Kakisound iconloosely translating to “baggy of poopy.” I love the graphic of the terrified shoe about to eat a steaming pile of kaki. The name has a great ring to it too … Saki Kaki. It sounds almost like a cocktail you would find at an Israeli/Japanese fusion restaurant … “I’ll take a Saki Kaki for the lady please.”

…check out the official site of Saki Kaki

A quick tip for IMers

February 14, 2007

You’re a Dork!

Before you click enter, check what language your keyboard is set to. I accidentally typed “sure” on my keyboard, to which my friend responded … “You’re a dork!”

Typing in Hebrew, the letters “s-u-r-e” spell

(d-o-r-k) דורק

*Click on thumbnail for full-size image.

He’s a Pooh!

February 13, 2007

This one, I just have to blame on the Anglos. Winnie the Pooh is a bear … and his name is Winnie … and he is a Pooh. I can see how the Israelis got it confused. What the frick is a Pooh anyway? Well, whoever got the rights for Winnie the Pooh in Israel made his name Pooh … Pooh the Bear – פו הדב. What happened to the Winnie who is a bear … and a Pooh?



February 13, 2007

Outside of Israel (or at least in America), a “chaser” is what you’d drink after doing a shot of something. It’s the main drink you’re drinking, while the shot is something that is over quickly. For example, people like to drink beer after doing a shot of tequila. To be clear — a shot is the hard alcohol drank from a small glass quickly, in one gulp.

In Israel, however, the phrases are completely reversed in meaning. Here, a chaser is the alcohol drank in one quick gulp and it comes alongside the main drink (i.e. beer). Very strange. Furthermore, the difference between “chaser” and “shot” is merely a matter of size. Because Israel doesn’t really have a drinking culture. I suppose they had to invent a new word to mean “half of a shot.” sound icon

So when you’re in a bar, remember “chasers” are small shots that come alongside your main drink and “shots” are just double the size of chasers sound icon.

Um…can we discuss this WORD?

February 13, 2007

(le-des-kes) לדסקס: To discuss