Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why No One Talks About the 'Israeli Street'

I posted last week about a dikduk question I was trying to get answered. 

A couple of days ago, I asked my daughter's Hebrew teacher from last year. She responded that "Mah Choshevet At" was incorrect, not because it was wrong grammatically, but rather because if I talked that way in Israel, Israelis would laugh at me.

I thought this made for an interesting contrast:
o Beware The Arab Street: if you criticize Islam, The Arab Street will protest, get violent, and possibly kill people.

o Beware The Israeli Street: if you speak Hebrew improperly, The Israeli Street will laugh at you.
So much for The Israeli Street.

Technorati Tag: .


Esser Agaroth said...


Here are the only words and phrases you need to survive in Tel Aviv:
1. Ahlah
2. K'ilu
3. Kazeh
4. Magniv
5. Yallah
6. Ahalan
7. Mah zot omeret?
8. Ahi
9. Nu?

Notice that 1/3 of them are Arabic.

Daled Amos said...

What about: "yashar-yashar"?

Esser Agaroth said...

Nope. cuz you can theoretically get away with just pointing.

Lady-Light said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lady-Light said...

You forgot "sabbaba." My daughter-in-law was really impressed with me; she said she can't get her mother to use that word-but I do. (-just trying to be 'with-it, is all.)
And that word is probably of Arab derivation as well...sounds like it, doesn't it?
Saying "mah choshevet at" would be comprable to "what thinkest thou," which would be acceptable as speech with the intention of being purposely funny or literary, for effect; Israelis are very down-to-earth and less nuanced; they wouldn't respond the same as Americans. And maybe, dikduk wise, it's just wrong!

Daled Amos said...

My 2 proofs that I am correct that it is acceptable though not common:

1. I did a google search and found a book entitled: "Mah Choshevet Miri."

2. If you want to draw a distinction between proper nouns and pronouns, then on p.26 of Ish HaHalachah, at the beginning of the 2nd paragraph, The Rav tz"l writes "Hinei yod'im anu"

(I've been reading it to my 8month old--I want him to get used to the cadence of Hebrew so he can tell the difference between English and Hebrew.

Also, he'll be the first kid in his daycare group to be able to say "Ontic Monism"

Soccer Dad said...

It reminds me a joke (or funny story) my 12th grade Rebbe told me:

A yeshiva bochur in Israel for a year, proud of his knowledge of Hebrew, approaches a woman in the street and says, "Hayesh lach hazman?"

To which she responds, "Hayesh Lecha Hakesef?"

Esser Agaroth said...

Yes, I forgot sabbaba, and yes, it's Arabic, too. ;-)

I don't know of any grammatical rule that says that the phrase in question is wrong. I just know that...

1. There are plenty of instances when one may change the syntax (particularly pronouns) to emphasize one thing or another.

2. The phrase above ain't one of those times.

3. Just doesn't sound right.

Lady-Light said...

Interesting point. Maybe you can say "mah yod'im anu" and "mah choshevet miri" because they are second person plural, and third person (guf sheni rabim, ve-guf shelishi), and also it is more literary, as in a book or a speech; but it's not common to say it in an Ivrit yom-yomit sentence.
It's like the tourist on our first trip in 1976, who crouched down to greet a little Israeli boy, and said in his dikduk-perfect Ivrit: "mah shimcha?"
The kid thought he was an alien.

Daled Amos said...

If "Mah Choshevet At" is comparable to "Mah Shimcha" then I feel I am on very solid ground. My issue was dikduk, not usage. As far as I am concerned, let Israelis laugh at me when I say Mah Choshevet At--I'll just correct them when they say "B'glal She"

Lady-Light said...

Ha! CORRECTEEMOTO! Nobody, but NOBODY says "mipnay sheh-" any more. It's just not KOOL. It points you out as a nerdie dikduk freak who learned about life from BOOKS.
It's all, "bi-glal sheh, lo meshaneh, sabbaba and mah inyanim."
We don't speakie deh langwedje any mo.
(I think I'm losing it...)

Daled Amos said...

One year when I was in Israel, I had a room mate who was a Baal Dikduk.

One day we were walking down the street in Yerushalayim, and my friend sees an Arab and tells me he has to go talk to him.

I asked him why he would want to go bother him. He explained to me he had to ask him the time--despite the fact that my friend was wearing a watch.

Why did he insist on asking him? Because the time was 5:30--and he wanted to hear the Arab say: CHameish v'CHeitzi with a Chet the way it's 'supposed' to be pronounced.

The things some do in the name of Dikduk.

Lady-Light said...

We have Sepharadim in our shul, and one Bucharan Israeli whose Chet is more like the Arab's: a cross between a Chet and a Hey; and his Ayin-a gutteral dream come true (me, I'm working on my
Ayins myself...)
I love dikduk.

Anonymous said...

Another essential expression: "haval al hazman", meaning anything from "do I have to spell it out?" to "totally", or even "goodbye" (when used in a cellphone conversation).

Lady-Light said...

Doesn't "haval al ha-zman" also mean something like, 'fantastic'?
Here's another one: "ein matzav." Means something like, fuggedaboudit ('no way, Jose').
So how can we use these in a sentence? Picture the scenario:
Two Israeli guys are lounging around on the sidewalk when they see a gorgeous gal walk by them. The first barnash, says (while whistling), " atah ro'eh otah? -haval al ha-zman!" The second guy pokes the first guy in the ribs and retorts: "ein matzav !"

Daled Amos said...

In the interests of accuracy, I checked Ha'aretz I found this:

HAVAL AL HA'ZMAN - חבל על הזמן

[Original meaning: A waste of time]

21st Century meaning: (Adj.) Great, Awesome. As in, "That steak was Haval al Ha'zman."