Translatable but Debatable - מענה (ma'aneh or maaneh)

Translatable but Debatable
מענה (Ma’aneh)

“A soft answer turneth away wrath,” says the Book of Proverbs, and the word for answer there is ma’aneh. These days you hardly hear the word ma’aneh used to mean a spoken or written answer, although the term ma’aneh koli is used for a phone answering system.

The word ma’aneh seems to enjoy staying in reserve while the word tshuva does conversational duty to describe the answer required by an everyday request for directions or by an arithmetic exercise. The word ma’aneh comes out for the bigger questions. Sometimes questions that don’t even come with a question mark.  The question of nuclear proliferation.  The heat of August.  The needs of a particular child.

Helene Landau wrote in with that last example:
לתת מענה אישי לכל תלמיד
That is, to provide a personal ma’aneh to each pupil.

She writes:  “I've come across it so many times and not come up with anything satisfactory, it seems that every time it is used warrants a new solution – never answer, sometimes attention, sometimes solution (rarely), and sometimes spending precious minutes reworking the sentence.”

There is also sometimes response, and for a particularly terrible kid there could be countermeasure.  But although I understand that in this case ma’aneh is never answer, because even a kid who’s a problem isn’t a question, I think that answer as a verb can be useful here.  To answer the needs of each pupil personally.

By using a verb in that context instead of a noun, we do create the need for a new noun.  We can answer a need, or a requirement, or a challenge, or a riddle.

Or instead of answering the need, you can meet it or satisfy it.

You are invited to help provide a ma’aneh to this translation issue by adding your own thoughts in the space below.  If there’s a different word you’d like to discuss here, or see discussed — not relevant to ma’aneh — please send your suggestion to me 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.