Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Substitutiary locomotion

I recently came across a form (in English) which had blanks for “Name”, “Address”, “Phone Number”, and, among other things, “Switcher Size”.

No doubt, you are as confused by this as I was. After all, according to Wikipedia, a switcheris a small [emphasis mine] railroad locomotive intended… for assembling trains ready for a road locomotive to take over, disassembling a train that has been brought in, and generally moving railroad cars around…

As you can see, this definition seems to suggest that switchers only come in “onesize” (Mah?! Zeh gam milah b’Anglit?!). I mean, wouldn’t “Locomotive Size” have been a better choice of words?

Clearly, something didn’t add up.

However, a single phone call, and the mystery was solved.

Switcher turned out to be a mistranslation of s’vetcher*, which – in turn - is how Israelis refer to a sweatshirt


* Yes, I know that it really should be סווטשרט, but my kids assure me that no one pronounces the final “tet”.


  1. I think that Israelis should be fined one shekel every time they butcher an English word. We could give the money to charity and end poverty forever.

  2. SuperRaizy - Now there's an idea...

  3. The new word which is replacing "svetcher" is "kaputchone".

    Don't know the origin of the word...

    This morning, I heard one Galei Tzahal the awful word; observatzia

  4. Our resident ulpanistit informs me that the two words are used interchangeably, but קופצון is probably more popular. However, neither should be confused with a "fleez", which is something else entirely.

    the awful word; observatzia
    I think that should win some sort of record... and I don't mean that in a good way!

    I have a great story about these types of words. B"N I'll try and blog about it after Shabbat.


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