Translatable but Debatable - משקעים (mishka'im)

Translatable But Debatable – משקעים

Mishka’im — precipitationis a word they like to use on the weather report when they could as easily just say geshem.  It’s not as if they normally need to make clear that besides rain, they also mean all the snow, hail, and sleet that came down today.

The meaning you’ll find for mishka’im in dictionaries — dictionaries like mine, at least — is precipitation if this is the weather report, or dregs if this is the winery, or sediment if this is the riverbed, or any other deposit that got where it is by sinking.

But there’s another everyday meaning.  For example, on a web forum a user named Norton says that the character played by Tim Robbins in the movie Mystic River is an
אדם עם משקעים, אבל גם אדם כנה ונאמן.

That isn’t to say the character is a rain man.  Different movies.  Rather, it means that as life has flowed over him, it has left his mentality coated with a residue, a layer between himself and external reality, that he might be happier without.

A spiritual coach’s website urges:
תנקו את משקעי העבר, תתמודדו עם הפחדים שאגרתם במשך חייכם.

So what are these persistences called in English — these things that can make us perceive inexactly, or act neurotically, for sedimental reasons?  Mishka’im seem to be always bad, by the way.  My father was a physician and all his friends were physicians, so when I go to a medical office I feel comfortable and unpressured; but nobody would say a lack of anxiety is due to mishka’im from my childhood.

The best English-language equivalent I can find is “baggage.” The Wikipedia article is titled specifically “Emotional Baggage” and says:  “As a metaphorical image, it is that of carrying all the disappointments, wrongs, and trauma of the past around with one in a heavy load.”  The definition reminds us that “trauma” is a good word too, but that it doesn’t cover every cause of mishka’im . Not all conditioning is traumatic.

I can’t say I’m happy with “baggage” as a translation, though.  It’s quite a different metaphor.  Baggage is something that wouldn’t be with us if we simply declined to renew our hold on it.  Mishka’im , on the other hand, cling to us by themselves.  “Baggage” is more compatible with the notion that if you feel any discomfort in life, it’s because you chose to feel it.

A more sympathetic metaphor might be “scars,” but I fear it’s too dramatic for some of the contexts where mishka’im is used.

Other suggestions, and comments on translating mishka’im , are welcome in the space below.  No need to provide your name or address if you prefer not to.  If there’s another word you’d like to see brought up for discussion here, please write 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.