Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going native

In the comment section to my most recent Heblish post, Malke referred to:

“The Final Four (or ‘Fay-nell Forr’ for our Israeli children).”

In my response, I wondered:

“Why do our children, who can speak English with flawless American accents when they so desire, say things like ‘Fay-nell Forr’ when they're speaking Hebrew?! For instance, a certain up-and-coming young computer genius of my acquaintance always says things like "Weendows" and "Oh-feess" when speaking Hebrew - even though he's perfectly capable of saying "Windows" and "Office" the rest of the time...”

I mention this exchange, because I think it’s the key to the mysterious “Ein Zahp” (the title of the game discussed in this post).

As Leora correctly observed:

“If I say ‘Ein Zahp’ as though I'm an Israeli talking English, it kinda sounds like hands up.”

And, in fact, the two Shiputzim family members who are most knowledgeable about these types of games (that would be MAG and the CTO, for those keeping score at home) agree that “Ein Zahp” is really the Israeli way of saying, “Hands Up!

If you don’t believe them, try saying “Ein Zahp” out loud yourself (as Leora did).

Then you, too, can sound like an Israeli child of Anglo descent who occasionally pretends that s/he doesn’t also speak fluent and impeccably-accented American English…



  1. I think it is natural to pronounce foreign words so that they don't sound weird in the language you are speanking. For instance I know how to pronounce sweatshirt in English but when using the word in French, it sounds more like sweetsheurt so that it almost passes for a French word.

  2. I have cousins that were taught to speak with a Yiddish accent, as though English wasn't their first language. Hasidish. Not really on this topic, but your post reminded me of this.

  3. Ilana-Davita - That makes sense. As an aside, it's funny that you used "sweatshirt" as an example. I posted about the Hebrew pronunciation of sweatshirt here.

    Leora - I have also met Chassidim who were born in the States - as were their parents and even grandparents - and yet they all speak Yiddish-accented English.

    Shabbat Shalom to all!

  4. I think Ilana Davita is absolutely correct. I know when I'm at work I will say things like "fox" instead of "fax" or "icks" instead of "x" (the opposite of vee)
    It just sounds weird to interject an American accent when you're speaking Hebrew. The question is why the kids do it when they're speaking English? I guess they're just used to hearing these words in a Hebrew context (as, for instance, the final four is not usually something we discuss at home).
    And BTW, I am terribly flattered to have been cited in your post.

  5. I have a tendency not to do this and then no one understands me at work.

    For example, I was talking to someone and said something about "hot" (i.e. the cable provider) and the other person started asking "Haht? Mah Zeh Haht?"

    And when they finally understood they were like "ohhh, hoht"

    This happens all the time.

    On the flip side, there are certain words I have become so used to saying with their Hebrew pronunciation that I even in when speaking English I pronounce that way.

  6. The worst is the need to use the letter "zed" in math equations or name spelling. I used to use "zee" but people didn't understand what I was saying.

  7. SPYYMZ-that is so true!!

  8. Malke - I am terribly flattered to have been cited in your post./
    As well you should be...

    YT - Our (real life) last name is particularly problematic. Israelis don't understand us - whether we say it with an Israeli accent or an American accent. We usually end up spelling it...

    SPYYMZ and Malke - Yeah, that's one of those things your shaliach never told you: That you have to learn a few Briticisms to get by...


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