Translatable but Debatable – מוקפד ומושקע mookpad and mooshka

by Mark L. Levinson

A couple of years ago, the term shakool שקול  came up here, a passive form that grammatically means “weighed” but also serves as an adjective describing people who weigh matters thoroughly and dispassionately.  It’s certainly not the only passive Hebrew word that reflects the active form obliquely rather than as a direct inverse. 

The active verb l’hakpeed להקפיד means “to be strict, severe, particular, exacting, meticulous, pedantic, fastidious, punctilious” according to the three-volume Alcalay dictionary.  The person who is that way, a kapdan קפדן, can be called “meticulous, pedant, strict, stringent, scrupulous, fussy, exacting, finical, finicky, fusspot, martinet, niggler, observant, observing, particular, picky, precisian, prig, prissy, queasy” according to 

L’hakpeed is an intransitive verb, and its indirect object is most normally the quality or detail that’s someone is being strict about — safety, cleanliness, nail polish, etc.  But the passive — mookpad מוקפד — is applied not only to the fussed-over qualities and details but also to the thing that bears them.  A police investigation can be mookpad.  Or an apartment.  Or a musical performance.  (“מוקפד. ממוקפד מדי,” said of the Pet Shop Boys.  “Too mookpad.”)

Alcalay defines mookpad as “scrupulous, meticulous, punctilious,” and the multi-volume Galil dictionary by Sivan and Levenston says “meticulous, strict, rigorous.” notes contexts where other translations appear: “neat, careful, sharp, thoughtful.”

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.”  Google shows that the verb “meticulize” has not remained completely uninvented; but you won’t find that verb in the dictionary.  In its active form too, you may have noticed that the verb להקפיד is translated by the dictionary not into a parallel English verb but only through adjectives.

Depending on the context, some of those adjectives may work better than “meticulous.”  For example, calling a job of work“scrupulous” provides a bit of a hint that someone was involved who had scruples.  (In contrast, few people seeing the word “meticulous” will feel reminded that someone had meticules.)

In the Hebrew-to-English dictionaries, a passive even less plumbed is mooshka מושקע (which Miriam Deutscher has suggested for discussion). The active l’hashkia  means “to invest.”  The root verb means “to sink,” so we mean sinking money (or other resources) into something.  The passive mooshka is used for the investment.  You can have a sum invested — mooshka — in a company.  We can then say, just as we do in English, that you are mooshka in that company yourself.  But there’s a third, oblique meaning of the passive, and I don’t see a dictionary that covers it. In her wordlist, Nina Davis writes:

“This term is often used to describe an apartment that has undergone renovation/decorating; or any work or project in which a person obviously invested time/effort/attention/money. Also applies to used cars that have been properly maintained, fully accessorized, or souped up.”

When the dictionaries fail, there’s — which gleans translations from a corpus that consists largely of movie and TV subtitles.  Subtitles are laconic, and one example — not a very helpful example, but I have to admit that it works in context — simply omits the word.  ?השעיר שלי לא מושקע מדי someone asks.  Is my hair not too mooshka?  (That is, maybe it shows I overdid the attention to it?)  The English-language subtitle is “The hair’s not too much?”

Something can also be insufficiently mooshka, and the translation Reverso shows for that concept is “half-assed.”  There’s another term that might be better in some contexts than in others.

Two contexts on Reverso translate mooshka as “fancy,” but like the other mooshka translations and the mookpad translations in general, the translation “fancy” doesn’t remind us — at least not as strongly as the passive form can, that a human creator is involved.  It doesn’t say that the thing is “invested-in.”

The last translation I see on Reverso is for עיצוב מושקע.  It says “thoughtful design.”  Thought was invested, and presumably money too.  Interestingly, “thoughtful” came up as a translation for mookpad as well, and even for shakool, that other oblique passive from two years ago.

At the movies, before we even have a chance to check out the subtitles, my wife and I can sense whether a movie is mooshka — whether it’s well financed, well funded, costly, labored over, fashioned with care.  You might say “polished,” although in some fields there are super-talented people who produce polish without effort.  Another useful term in the cinematic context is “high production values.”

Help make this page mooshka by adding your own thoughts on mooshka and mookpad in the space at the bottom. If you’d like to suggest a further word for discussion, please write to me at .  An index of words and phrases discussed so far is here.

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.