Wednesday, December 14, 2016

All About the Words

So, if you’ve never listened to Question of the Day, it’s based on questions that James Altucher and Stephen Dubner mostly found on Quora, which is a site where people… wait for it… ask questions. And other people answer them. 

The boys really, really, REALLY love Quora. Like, A LOT. I’ve wound up on Quora a few times when Google led me there, but it never got me super excited. Now, though, thanks to Question of the Day, I might actually… create an account and USE Quora. 


Anyway, the second episode of Question of the Day was about words that the English language was missing. Some of the answers discussed were just funny things, like that English needs the word “whichith.”

Usage: Whichith president is Barack Obama? The 44th.”

It made me laugh, so I’m good with it. 

Of course, the conversation quickly turned to words that exist in other languages, but not in English. And it is here that I have something to contribute, as an excellent speaker of Hebrew. (SHUT UP GUY, LIOR, AND SHIR. MY HEBREW IS TOO EXCELLENT.)

As any self-respecting speaker of Hebrew and English knows, Hebrew has words that English lacks. And so we simply use those words, in Hebrew, while speaking English. Even when speaking English to people who do not speak Hebrew. Basically, the general feeling here is, Tough. Should have paid more attention in Hebrew School. Or been born Jewish. 

The two Hebrew words without which I personally cannot live are stam and davka. 

“Stam” is a great word. You can use it in a variety of ways. For example:

What are you doing right now?
Stam. (Nothing.)

Where were you?
We got arrested. STAM! (Just kidding!)

She’s stam (just) a girl I go to school with. (The implication here being, she’s no one special. We’re TOTALLY NOT DATING.)

You stam (for no reason) got mad at me. 

See? Very useful.

Davka is also used to mean many things. For example:

You davka (just to annoy me because you know I don’t like it) made the chicken in sweet sauce.

Don’t do davka! (Don’t steal your bother’s toy for no reason/do the thing everyone has asked you not to do/not eat the thing I told you to eat/eat the thing I told you not to eat/etc. etc.)

It was davka (contrary to what I expected) not bad.

Why davka (precisely/exactly) now? 

I use these words all the time, in Hebrew and in English, and without regard for the understanding of the listener. So, now you know. 


Amy said...

I've always wished English had the equivalent of "yahrzeit". Saying "anniversary of their death," or similar phrases is too clunky. I have often used "yahrzeit" in a secular context for lack of a better English word, with mixed reception.