November 25, 2007

Speaking of funny translations of English phrases into Hebrew…

What about the time my roommate told me not to “Le’zag’zeg” in the traffic?
And what about the commercial I just heard where the guy said “Ani lo mevin klum…tess-em-ess li” (literally “I don’t understand anything…send me an SMS).

Keeps me on my toes.

Whale Done!

September 18, 2007

Whale done

This was the gift I got from my bank this year, an inspiration book about the power of positive thinking. First, its ironic that the book is translated from English (are there no inspiration Hebrew books written by people other than god?) Second, they changed the original title and came up with one on their own (obviously) – Whale Done! (click the pic to see a full version). As always, I’m sure we can all imagine that boardroom meeting: “No, no, I am telling you, the Americans talk like dzis, they say ‘whale done’ as a funny American joke and so we must do it as well, whale done!”

Did you say Un-Alphabet?

April 18, 2007

A friend and I were talking (in Hebrew) when I heard him say “alphabet” in a sentence. Yeah, the English word “alphabet” … pronounced “alphabet” … just likeUn-Alphabet we say it in English.

I said … “Alphabet?”

And he said … “No, Un-Alphabet”.

So I said … “What the crap is an Un-Alphabet?”

In case you were wondering, the word אלפבית (alphabet) in Hebrew has no meaning, but the word אנאלפבית (pronounced Un-alphabet) means illiterate. I’ve asked some friends how you say “literate,” and they told me there is no word for “literate.” I looked it up in the dictionary, and apparently they’re right…there is no word for “literate.” If you look up the word “literate” in the dictionary, it’s the same word for “learned” (Melumad) which generally refers to biblical learning.

Some other funny nouns …

Narcoman – Is not an Israeli super hero with special Narc powers. It’s a drug addict.

Alcoholist – Is not a scholar who majored in Alcohol (chemist, biologist, physicist, psychologist, etc.). It’s an alcoholic.

Fire-o-man – Is not a fireman. It’s a pyromaniac. I think us anglos screwed this one up. In Hebrew, a fireman is a (mechabeh esh … a fire putter outer). Our firemen should be called Fire-putter-outers, but that just sucks to say.

Ve Gaits da Fashtunkeneh Puncher Makher

February 27, 2007

It’s really funny when English gets thrown into the Hebrew vocabulary. It’s really really ridiculously funny when Yiddish becomes part of the conversational Hebrew Vocabulary.

The word most commonly used for “flat tire” is Puncher (Puncture) –


It would just make too much sense to call a tire shop by the Hebrew term … חנות צמיגים (Khanut Tzmigim). What do you think a tire repair shop should be called in Hebrew … a תיקוני צמיגים (Tikuneh Tzmigim)? Or maybe a half Hebrew/half Yiddish phrase … תיקוני פאנצ’רים (Tikuneh Puncherim)?

I’m not sure what Ben Yehuda was thinking, but in Hebrew they translate the Repair Shop to Yiddish too.

פאנצ’ר מאכר – Puncher Makher

That’s the funniest thing since I searched “De Gantzeh Megilleh” at Google Yiddish.

Grab-bag from Brad

February 27, 2007

Brad writes in with some great insights into life in Israel (thank him by adding him as a friend on Facebook, he needs more Zabajnikim):

-Directly translating from Hebrew to English (or vice versa) often gets Israelis into trouble. For instance, when having a conversation with an Israeli in English, if he or she want to show agreement they might say “me either” instead of “me too”

-The Israeli word for any breakfast cereal is cornflakes

The Israeli word for potato chips is usually doritos

The Israeli word for snacks is munchies (like the stoner condition of being hungry)

-Although Israelis have a word for refrigerator – מקרר (mikarer) – many (especially older Israelis) will say frigedor

-If you order “nachos” in Israel, you will get tortilla chips with salsa…or possibly ketchup…but never with cheese

-Salsa is often called rotev salsa… which means “sauce sauce” in a Hebrew-Spanish combo

-The Israeli term for “last minute” is daka 90, which comes from soccer games being 90 minutes long

-“Bagel” means bagel and “bageleh” means pretzel

    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?


    The 32nd Flavor

    February 12, 2007

    Israeli ice cream shops have funny flavors. Not so much cuz they taste funny, but the spellings are hilarious. One of my all time favorites has been

    Cockies and Cream sound icon

    It’s ice cream with little chunks of cockies mixed in. Sounds yummy. It even looks like cockies.

    My friend Nir just told me about a funnier ice cream flavor. On the corner of Weizmann and Tel Hai, there is a small ice cream shop. On each bucket of ice cream, there were stickers with Hebrew handwritten flavors. I have no idea what this flavor would taste like. Let’s see if you can guess. The flavor was called …

    אייס קרים sound icon

    That’s right … ice cream flavored ice cream.

    מיכאל בן יעקוב

    February 12, 2007

    My work buddies helped me out with some great zabaj material today. It’s so funny to hear what phrases Israelis choose to translate to Hebrew, and what phrases they choose to transliterate to Hebrew. During the 80’s and 90’s, it was hip to call things by their English names, but just spell it in Hebrew. From the 70’s and earlier Israelis just translated English phrases to Hebrew. Of course, there are always exceptions, and some recent names got translated, too. Here are some Music groups that all Israelis have heard of, but Anglos haven’t heard them quite like this before …

    האבנים המתגלגלות
    החיפושיות (הקצב)
    האמהות והאבות

    … and some of my absolute favorites …

    רובים ושושנים
    עשרה אלפים המטורפים

    What ever happened to …

    שעועית שחורת עין
    מיכאל בן יעקוב

    For those too lazy to translate, the groups in order are The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles (The Beat), The Mammas and the Pappas, The Eagles, Guns n Roses, The Who, 10,000 Maniacs, Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson (the Son of Jack)

    Front axle, and of Course the *Rear* Front Axle

    February 8, 2007

    There’s a proper way to say ‘axle’ in Hebrew: It’s סרן.

    Many choose to import the English word for it though — and fair enough; whatever makes them happy. Thus we have ‘Frant (sic) Axle.’ (פרנט אקסל). ‘Rear Axle,’ however…is a mess. It’s not simply ‘Rear Axle’ with a funny accent like we might expect. It’s in fact, ‘Frant (sic) Axle achori (rear)’ (פרנט אקסל אחורי). Thanks to Eitan for the tip.

    The Real Origin of Zabaj

    February 8, 2007

    I think its time you guys learned the origin of the word Zabaj.

    I was hanging out with some friends in Dallas and we were admiring the healthiness of the girls at this bar. When we talk about people in Dallas, we talk in Hebrew cuz nobody speaks Hebrew in Dallas.

    I have to give credit to Heimedelic Saso for translating “Junk in the Trunk” to “Zevel ba Bagaj.” After laughing about it all night, we realized that we just created a much lacking word in the Hebrew language.

    It was my job to introduce it to the country. To all you Zabaj enlightened peeps … remember Saso and the Zabaj that he deals with daily.

    רסאקל and סטקוסת

    February 7, 2007

    When I picked up my newly purchased car, the Mazda guy walked me through all the buttons and gadgets in the car. He started explaining the cruise control to me as if I had never used the feature before. He told me that the “setcoast” button was for setting the cruise control, and the “Resakel” button was for continuing with cruise after it was already set.

    I started laughing, and he asked why, so I explained to him that the “res – accell” button was “resume” and “accelerate.” The “setcoast” button was “set” and “coast.”

    Lo L-peek!!

    February 7, 2007

    The simplicity of Hebrew invites creative verbs to be made out of English phrases. Overheard by Kibalti_Fak while watching (not sure WHY) two kids play hide-and-go-seek:

    “Lo l’peek!” (לא לפיק)

    Received a F*ck? קבלתי פאק

    February 6, 2007

    The first time I heard this, I was at my roommate’s folks’ for Shabbat. His mom is a sweet old lady that would never say a bad word in Hebrew. For her, a curse is “שתהיה בריא” which means “You should be healthy.”

    I have no idea what we were talking about, but she said “קבלתי פאק” and I busted out laughing. What’s worse, she had no idea what I was laughing at. She meant to say she was duped or tricked…instead she said she “received a f*ck.”

    But Her Face

    February 6, 2007

    We all know what a ‘butterface’ is. It refers to someone with a great body, but, well, “everything fine but his/her face.” You don’t really say this in Hebrew. Well, at least most don’t. Is that gonna stop us?? No:

    חמאת פנים (khemat-panim): Butterface

    (Yes, I know that proper Hebrew smichut would make it פני חמאה [pnei-khema], but that just didn’t have the same ring to it)

    I remember Care Bears

    February 6, 2007

    דובוני אכפת ליNOT* that I had one for a while in 1983 when I didn’t know the difference between what girls and boys should play with because of that one time in my basement with Earl the babysitter that I promised I’d never talk about. I’m saying I didn’t have one.

    But more to the point, the way you say it in Hebrew is just great: “Dubonei Ichpat-li” (דובוני אכפת לי), or literally translated “Bears It Matters To Me.”


    *I also didn’t ever read any The Babysitters Club books. Ever.


    February 6, 2007

    I have adjusted pretty well to life in Israel but I cannot for the life of me get used to this whole “noon” and “afternoon” thing.

    For my whole life…”noon” has meant 12 o’clock — midday.
    That’s how it is in the world. Noon = midday = 12 o’clock.

    Now, suddenly, I have to get used to the concept that in Israel “noon” means anything after 12:00 until 4:00 p.m. and you have to be specific. Even worse is that it typically means 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s this WHOLE block of freaking time that people are so ambiguous about…and it doesn’t even really include the actual NOON.

    And “afternoon”? Well “afternoon” refers to the time between 4 p.m. and dinner time.


    I mean…according to Mirriam Webster, “noon” is 12 o’clock midday.

    It’s not just some rule I made up.

    I can’t get used to it.
    It’s so hard to like CHANGE the MEANING of a word.

    The origin of Zabaj (‘ז”בז)

    February 6, 2007

    My first post may as well be the origin of our blog’s name, Zabaj.

    Zabaj was actually an expression before it became an acronym. The expression is based on a loose translation of “junk in the trunk” to Hebrew: Zevel Ba’Bagaj (‘זבל בבגז). But, of course, like everything in Israeli culture, it was begging for an acronym. And that’s how Zabaj was born.

    Further evolving the expression, as is also common in Israel, the acronym can now also be conjugated. For example, if a girl was skinny but now sports a chubby ass, you may say “היא הזדבז’ה.” Another favorite is to call someone a Zabajnik or Zabajnikit.

    (Props to Eitan for the grammatical correction)

    (for a further etymology, read this post)