Translatable but Debatable – התלבט hitlabet

Translatable but Debatable – התלבט hitlabet

Morfix defines hitlabet as “to have doubts, to be uncertain, to weigh possibilities; to think over, to deliberate, to ponder, to mull, to debate.” Still I think of the meaning as commonly more specific than that. When I leave the house, it’s not so much that I mitlabet about whether I fed the goldfish. I mitlabet about whether or not to go back.

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Translatable but Debatable — הגיח hegiakh

Translatable but Debatable — הגיח hegiakh

Among Babylon’s definitions of hegiakh is “appear suddenly,” which reminds me that more than once in my technical writing career I saw the word “appear” criticized when applied to items that pop up on the computer screen.  People would complain that “appear” is a word for magicians, not for sober programmers and users. I never saw the point of the complaint.

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Translatable but Debatable — מבחן המציאות mivkhan hametzi'ut

Translatable but Debatable — מבחן המציאות mivkhan hametzi'ut

The other day, I was translating some Hebrew that referred to something as “worth about as much as a garlic peel.” It’s a common expression in Hebrew, but I’ve never heard it in English.  Still, I thought, it’s self-explanatory and expressions do pass from one language into another all the time.

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Translatable but Debatable – רבץ ravatz

Translatable but Debatable – רבץ ravatz

If something or someone is described as being down on the ground and I see the verb lirbotz, often I think “Why didn’t the writer just say lishkav, to lie?  Did he have anything special in mind, or is he simply disdaining to use everyday language and forcing me to find a pompous equivalent?”

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Translatable but Debatable – הפקת לקחים hafakat lekakhim

Translatable but Debatable – הפקת לקחים hafakat lekakhim

Merriam-Webster takes an example of prolepsis from a poem by Alexander Pope where “yon slow oxen turn the furrowed plain.”  The plain isn’t furrowed until they’ve turned it.  Some organizations hold a “lessons learned” meeting at the end of a project, and if everyone had learned the lessons already, the meeting wouldn’t be necessary.  So that’s prolepsis too.

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Translatable but Debatable – השתלשלות hishtalshelut

Translatable but Debatable – השתלשלות hishtalshelut

From the Morfix and Babylon online dictionaries, we can learn that the hishtalshelut of something is its evolution, progression, development (of a situation, event), chain of events, or sequence.  Some of those terms in English are fine for a more lengthy happening, like the development of an ideology or the progression of a relationship, but I’m not sure there’s room for them in a startling incident that may have taken a couple of seconds maximum. 

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Translatable but Debatable – ספר עיון ויום עיון sefer iyun and yom iyun

Translatable but Debatable – ספר עיון ויום עיון sefer iyun and yom iyun

If you look up sefer iyun in Wikipedia and click for the corresponding page in English, you find that it’s “nonfiction.”  But you don’t find that it’s a translation of the same article.  I think every sefer iyun is nonfiction, but not every book of nonfiction is a sefer iyun

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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 – 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 – 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 – ספרות מגויסת, the literature of shared commitment

Translatable but Debatable – ספרות מגויסת, the literature of shared commitment

Whereas Sartre was trying to distinguish an individualistic littérature engagée from already unfashionable socialist realism, in Hebrew the parallel term sifrut m’guyesset retains the association of groupthink, of being enlisted or drafted or inducted for purposes of agitprop or other propaganda rather than thoughtfully asserting beliefs one has formulated as an individual. 

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Translatable but Debatable — ערכי: Principals, principles, and values

Translatable but Debatable — ערכי:  Principals, principles, and values

Someone driven by values would normally be called “value-driven” — with no “s” because in such a construction we normally don’t see the plural.  A dog bitten by fleas is flea-bitten, a cake covered by blueberries is blueberry-covered.  However, the adjective “value-driven” has been co-opted by the business world in connection with the kind of value that money buys. 

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Translatable but Debatable – עמידה בלחצים (Pressureproofness)

Translatable but Debatable – עמידה בלחצים (Pressureproofness)

If the translation of עמידה בלחצים is literal — resistant to pressure, indifferent to pressure, withstanding pressure, impervious to pressure — it sounds as if the worker simply keeps plodding along without taking the pressure into account, rather than coping with it as necessary.

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Translatable but Debatable – Patience of Paper

Translatable but Debatable – Patience of Paper

If it were up to me, I’d translate הנייר סובל הכל as “Paper puts up with anything,” but tradition must be respected and according to The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, the English version “Paper does not blush” has seniority harking at least back to 1577.

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Translatable but Debatable — מתחם mitkham

Translatable but Debatable — מתחם mitkham

Looking at Mitkham HaPil — including one big building on a traffic island and perhaps another big building or two across the road — I’d say it’s too small to be called a district.  Maybe a center, if it’s only the one building or if the other buildings are well enough integrated despite the busy road that separates them off.  Or Elephant Corner could be reasonable name.

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Translatable but Debatable — מצא לנכון matsa l'nakhon

Translatable but Debatable — מצא לנכון matsa l'nakhon

I saw a rather bold translation on the Internet the other day.  Someone translated מצא לנכון (matsa l’nakhon) as “decided.”  Generally the dictionary definitions of that phrase are less blunt.  Babylon says “thought it right.”  Alkalay says “see fit, choose.” 

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