Translatable but Debatable - אס"ק (asak)

Translatable But Debatable — אס"ק

Ephraim Kishon wrote a story once about a Purim party where the people try hard to celebrate but leave more gloomy than when they arrived.  Evidently it’s a failing of ours.  When I went to the Internet to research the term אס"ק — which refers to the good cheer, informality, and celebrations that accompany the approach of graduation from an army course — what I found more than anything else was soldiers looking for ideas of exactly how to cut loose and have fun for the occasion, being without inspiration themselves.

I’d been spurred by Yaacov-Yoseph Weiss, who wrote in asking: “How would you translate אס"ק which is אווירת סוף קורס? …. I couldn't find a good term which has even similar connotations to the Hebrew אס"ק.”

In the Tapuz glossary for new military recruits, under the contributor name Baby Boo, a Hebrew definition appears:

“.מתחילים להרגיש את הסוף. מתחילים הצחוקים על המדריכים ונסיונת שבירת הדיסטנס ורצינות הסגל”

I don’t suppose there’s any hope of finding a definition in English.  The term seems to describe anything from a single celebration to a period of up to three weeks.  Often it’s a week, and I suppose that could be called “casual week” but the term would still need explanation.  Maybe “a graduation-week atmosphere” would come close; if it’s just an atmosphere, it doesn’t have to clock in at exactly one week.

I’m reminded indirectly of senioritis, also known as senior slack or the senior slump, among high-school students in the English-speaking world who have received their letters of college admission and feel that further study effort would be like putting more change into the Coke machine after the bottle has already dropped.  (That’s one opinion, anyway.  Some people find that high-school seniors are exhausted even before they apply for college.)

Among politicians rather than trainees, those under the shadow of the term’s end are lame ducks.  But I can’t see how to tweak that expression into applicability where an army course is concerned.

As far as I can tell, nobody writes about a period of end-of-course permissiveness in English-speaking armies.  On the contrary, when you Google for “end of course” you read about especially rigorous exercises in the army; and when classes are suspended at the end of the university semester it’s in order to allow for the hard work of finishing papers and swotting for exams.

It could be that the Israeli army developed special customs because of the tension between trainees and trainers whose age difference is negligible.

In translating אס"ק I’d be inclined to replace the double-hyphened “end-of-course” with the single-hyphened “pre-graduation.”  Or the unhyphenated “pregraduation,” which many authorities would prefer.  One could speak of a pregraduation thaw, or pregraduation informalities, or pregraduation silly season.

Other ideas for אס"ק translations, and relevant comments, are welcome below.  If you’d like to suggest another word for discussion, please e-mail me instead at ]]

Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.