Translatable but Debatable – תמהוני timhoni and its cognates

Translatable but Debatable – תמהוני timhoni and its cognates

Reverso.net translates “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo” as Ani muzar, ani timhoni.  I think it drops the ball when it translates “creep” as simply “strange,” and I think a creep is a more unsympathetic kind of a weirdo than a timhoni normally is.

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Translatable but Debatable – סתם stam

Translatable but Debatable – סתם stam

Although you can read in one place that “Israelis use the word ‘stam’ at every chance they get,” elsewhere you can read that “its not a word you hear often.  I (and others) use it 99% of the time as ‘Just Kidding’, but it is slang.”

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Translatable but Debatable – התרגש hitragesh

Translatable but Debatable – התרגש hitragesh

Think about a grandmother who mitrageshet upon receiving a birthday present from her eight-year-old granddaughter.  She doesn’t feel and behave the same as an eight-year-old who mitrageshet upon receiving a birthday present from her grandmother.

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Translatable but Debatable – התכתב hitkatev

Translatable but Debatable – התכתב hitkatev

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam says that when displayed, Anish Kapoor’s Internal Object in Three Parts “will enter a visual dialogue with Rembrandt’s late works.”  I always find the one-sided claim of a dialogue irritating.   I was talking with Dante the other day, and he calls it infernal.

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Translatable but Debatable – קטע keta

Translatable but Debatable – קטע keta

Of my print dictionaries, only Oxford (by Ya’acov Levy) acknowledges the show-biz meaning of keta, calling it a performer’s “number.”  Viewing life as a cabaret, we may ask when someone behaves strangely “What is his keta?” — that is to say, his item on the program.  His routine, his gag, his schtick, his spot, his bit, his piece, his act, his stunt, his stuff, his trick.

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Translatable but Debatable – מוקפד ומושקע mookpad and mooshka

Translatable but Debatable – מוקפד ומושקע mookpad and mooshka

In English a word like “meticulous” does double duty, describing both the person who is strict about details and the work that gets done that way.  But it isn’t passive, so when applied to the work, it doesn’t point back to the creator of the meticulousness as strongly as mookpad does.  Mookpad is more like “meticulized.”

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Translatable but Debatable – לערער l'ar'er

Translatable but Debatable – לערער l'ar'er

L'ar'er, meaning an undermining of balance, has never been my favorite verb, because it goes twice over two consonants that we Americans can’t pronounce well.  Even in English, I was never sure whether to pronounce the verb “err” like the first syllable of “error” or like the first syllable of “ermine.”  But what l'ar'er does have in its favor that verbs like undermine or destabilize don’t is its ding-dong, seesaw , shikshukish repetition.  It brings to mind — to my mind, at least — an effort to weaken something by joggling it back and forth.

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Translatable but Debatable – חוויתי khavayati

Translatable but Debatable – חוויתי khavayati

A khavaya is an experience, so khavayati translates logically to “experiential” — an uncomfortable construction, certainly too unattractive for use in advertising.  It wears its suffix like a borrowed pair of shoes.

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Translatable but Debatable – Going to the translators' debate

Translatable but Debatable – Going to the translators' debate

For the American market, it was necessary to remove elements that were peculiar to Israel and change the names of the characters to proper American names.  The USA may be a nation of immigrants, but American children want to read about other children who are like themselves, not foreigners in a foreign environment.  In that way they differ from American adults who read Israeli novels in translation and tend to appreciate learning new things about the country through them. 

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Translatable but Debatable – עשה לביתו (asa l'veito)

Translatable but Debatable – עשה לביתו (asa l'veito)

The expression asa l’veito (עשה לביתו) — literally, “provided for his household” — has a respectable origin in the book of Genesis, where Jacob says to Laban: “the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?”  But as Ruvik Rosenthal notes in his blog, modern Hebrew uses the expression “particularly in connection with public servants who make the move into profitable private business.  

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Translatable but Debatable – יבושֹם y'vusam

Translatable but Debatable – יבושֹם y'vusam

Nobel Prize laureate Yisrael (Bob) Aumann opined that socialists are mistaken in not wanting anyone to be too well off.  “What I need is to be comfortable.  And if somebody else is a thousand times more comfortable, she-y’vusam lo,” said Professor Aumann.  Literally, “let him have it with perfume.”

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Translatable but Debatable – גיחך (gikhech)

Translatable but Debatable – גיחך (gikhech)

In English, snide superciliousness tends to be conveyed with S words-- sneer, scoff, snigger, scorn.  To the ear, gikhekh makes a very different impression.  It sounds like a gurgling cackle.

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Translatable but Debatable - התנהלות (hitnahalut)

Translatable but Debatable - התנהלות (hitnahalut)

Yoram Peri says that “the media invented a new Hebrew term (hitnahalut)” meaning “a behavior pattern arising out of personality.  The terms closest to it in English — conduct, self-management — do not emphasize the psychological element sufficiently.”

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Translatable but Debatable – זו נבלה וזו טרפה (twin evils)

Translatable but Debatable – זו נבלה וזו טרפה (twin evils)

When Americans were planning independence from Britain, more than one local patriot floated the idea of speaking Hebrew instead of English.  If Americans all spoke Hebrew today, they would be better able to discuss elections in which zu nevela v’zu treifa — meaning “it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other” or “Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee” but in a particularly bad way.

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Translatable but Debatable – לעגן (l'agen) and יתד (yated)

Translatable but Debatable – לעגן (l'agen) and יתד (yated)

Just today on the evening news, Amnon Abramovich announced that regarding the latest rumors of scandal in Bibi Netanyahu’s inner circle, recent testimony had contained no ytedot, nothing to hang on to.  If we use the translation of yated at Seadict.com, the testimony had no “peg, wedge, tent-peg, picket, pin, spike, stake, strut, stud, brad, chock, cotter” — all words unsuitable to carry the metaphorical meaning in English, unfortunately.  Maybe the translation in this case would be “no smoking gun.”

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Translatable but Debatable – לזכות lizkot

Translatable but Debatable – לזכות lizkot

Alcalay and other Hebrew-to-English dictionaries are perfectly willing to allow that זכות (zchut) can mean either “right” or “privilege.”  Or “prerogative.”  It’s up to the context and the translator

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Translatable but Debatable – צמוד tsamood, להצמיד l'hatsmeed

Translatable but Debatable – צמוד tsamood, להצמיד l'hatsmeed

Tsamood means both “adjacent” and “linked.”  So if the date of your wedding rehearsal is tsamood to the date of your wedding, does that mean that the two dates are close together, or merely that one depends on the other?  

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Translatable but Debatable — מכונן m'chonen

Translatable but Debatable — מכונן m'chonen

Although its meaning and its deterioration mirror the Hebrew word m’chonen, the word “seminal” has another problem, because although the Latin word semen carries the meaning of “seed” in the botanical sense, not everyone sees “seminal” that way.  Ms. Brigitte, a blogger, writes: “it implies that the origin of a work is male, regardless of who wrote it.” 

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