There is a fascinating documentary series airing now in Israel that explores the evolution of modern day Hebrew. Below is an outtake from Haaretz:
Hebrew: ‘London, Corner of Ben Yehuda’
For the proponents of good Hebrew, and also for those who are interested in an intelligent, horizon-expanding television program, Channel 10 is now broadcasting a weekly series (on Wednesdays) entitled “London, Corner of Ben Yehuda.” In the series, veteran journalist Yaron London examines the ways in which our use of the Hebrew language has changed, from its revival by Eliezer Ben Yehuda to the present day. Along the way, London addresses subjects such as the generation gap, slang and “sub-languages” – including those of the Internet and of the settlers in the territories. A fascinating conversation between London and the writer Meir Shalev is a balm for every language-loving dinosaur, as London calls himself. In the second episode, which deals with the language of love – or, as poet Michal Zamir puts it more accurately, the language of erotica – London turns out to be an excellent writer of love poems (he wrote two especially for the program). And he proves, with his body and voice, that curiosity, intelligence and articulateness are enough to turn him, too, despite his age and pot belly, into an erotic object. (Neri Livneh)
There are some common mistakes Israelis make when writing English. Here is a great status update on Facebook but what makes it perfect is the response. The status says “begs” instead of “bags” and the responder repeated the mistake!
Other golden ones are “sabmit” for “submit,” “massages” for “messages” and “cat and paste” for “cut and paste.”
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 like 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.
Many global companies have offices in Israel. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Israelis know how to pronounce their names. This tidbit comes from Zabajnik Rafi:
Israelis pronounce the name of the accounting firm Ernst & Young as “Ernest Young.” Even people who work there pronounce it like that! Try it for yourself, call them up and smile as the receptionist answers the phone by saying “Shalom, Ernest Young.”
When an Israeli is frustrated and has “had enough,” you’ll hear him or her exclaim “די!” which means “Enough!” and when pronounced, sounds like “DIE!”
If you listen closely, you will hear this expression quite a lot in one day…at the supermarket when someone’s toddler won’t stop begging for Bisli or at the bus stop when kids are being nudniks…or perhaps at a stop light when a young lady is fussing at her boyfriend who doesn’t know when to leave her alone.
For someone who isn’t familiar with Hebrew, it appears as if everyone walks around Israel telling people to die. Talk about shocking!
What will be really shocking is when the olim go back to their hometowns for a visit and as soon as they get frustrated with their nagging parents or annoying siblings, they’ll exclaim, “די!” out of habit…it probably won’t go over very well!
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.
-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” isdaka 90, which comes from soccer games being 90 minutes long
I won’t get into the various stigmas or classifications done here in Israel according to the car you drive. That is a completely separate Zabaj post. However, on top of having to deal with that, since I drive a Mitsubishi (מיצובישי) I also have to hear it mispronounced and mis-spelled a lot, including at the official Mitsubishi garage I take my car to be fixed at.
The most popular is Mitsibushi/מיציבושי (mee-tsee-boo-shee)
Followed by Mitsubushi/מיצובושי (mee-tsoo-boo-shee)
You’ll find it misspelled like this on any and all of the car selling sites including Yad2 and MyCar.
This is so widespread that even in the official Israel Trade & Commerce publications they seem to be making these mistakes, writing “Mitsibushi” on their English-language list of Australian car manufacturers.
Is it cuz they associate it with Japan and the word sushi?
Israelis that work in the hi-tech sector have become extremely lazy. On top of the general laziness of ordering in lunch, sitting in a chair for 10 hours straight, and IMing your cubicle mate instead of talking, Israeli hi-tech workers have really become lazy with their Hebrew by taking English words and hebrefying them by adding a “le” (lamed) in front.
As an avid lover of reggae music, this one makes me crack up.I don’t know how or why but somehow Israelis assume that since a person with dreadlocks is often called a Rasta or Rastaman, then automatically the dreadlocks in their hair are “rastot” (rah-stoht). But last time I checked the hebrew definition for dreadlocks I got:
בשיער, צורת תסרוקת של תלתלים ארוכים
וסבוכים דמויי חבל נפוצה בין השחורים בג’מייקה
And to make it more confusing, Rastot is also the plural of Rasta or Rastaman, so when there are many Rastas around there are lots of Rastot.
If you’re really interested in getting your own ‘rastot’, you can go to Rastot.com which advertises itself as THE place for “professional dreadlock preparation.” In Hebrew:
Americans know there are different times for saying “I gotta pee,” “I’m going to use the restroom,” “I need to wee wee,” or “May I be excused?”
I know that I can tell my friends, “I gotta pee, I’ll be right back,” but I wouldn’t tell a first date “I’m gonna drain my lizard.”
Israelis have funny ways for saying “I gotta pee.” The first time I heard this, I was on a date. We were having a great time hanging out, and this gorgeous Israeli girl tells me …
יש לי פיפי –
Huh?!? You got what? I didn’t know how to respond to that. Apperently that’s how you say “I gotta pee” in Hebrew… “I have pee.” Today I know nothing else is approprate to say in Hebrew. If you say אני הולך לשרותים … “I’m going to the restroom,” you sound like a 4 year old to Israelis. The only appropriate way to say it in Hebrew is “Yesh Li Peepee.”
So all you Americakim out there, next time you need to pee, bite down hard on your tongue to keep from cracking up … and tell your Israeli friend … יש לי פיפי