Saturday, November 22, 2008

A magical interlude

Shavua tov, Our Shiputzim fans!

Some of the comments in the previous post reminded me of something that happened way back when I was on Shana Bet.

One of my teachers was an American who had made aliyah many years before. Although there were a handful of English-speakers in the course, most of the students were Israelis, and the class was given in Hebrew.

Anyway, one day, the teacher said that something was like “magickah”.

My friends and I rolled our eyes at each other. Apparently, magic was yet another English word that just needed an atzia or an ah at the end to transform it into Hebrew. We each had our own personal favorites, but we all agreed that this latest example was definitely a prime contender for the title of Most Ridiculous Hebrew Word.

However, we soon realized that we weren’t the only ones discussing the teacher’s choice of words. A murmur swept through the class. Finally, a brave student piped up, “What’s magickah?”

The teacher looked around at the Israeli students’ blank expressions and grinned.

“I take it that’s not a word?” he laughed.

He then confessed that whenever he would forget how to say something in Hebrew, he would simply Hebraicize the English term… even in the middle of his lectures!

“It usually works,” he insisted. “I do this all the time, and until today, no one has ever complained or corrected me. It always turns out to be a real word.”

Magickah, it seems, was the exception that proved his rule…


P.S. For the record, the actual Hebrew word for magic is קסם – kessem.


  1. Nice, and maybe useful, story!

  2. Ilana-Davita: True, this technique could come in handy when one is in a bind and can't remember how to say something in Hebrew. But personally, I'd be too self-conscious to pull it off with a straight face. I'd probably start laughing and ruin the effect!

  3. I have been trying to do that for years, Hebracize words that is.

  4. Jack - And...? Did you ever get called on it, or does it always work for you?

  5. Professor Richard Feynmann (olovasholem) used to do something similar when he was a guest lecturer in Brazil - he'd use an English word with Latin roots and give it a Portuguese pronunciation. They thought he had a remarkable grasp of the most elegant and refined Portuguese imaginable, because he was almost always right.

  6. Joe in Australia -
    Thanks for your comment.
    It sounds like my teacher was in good company!


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