Monday, November 1, 2010

It was, like, a linguistic epiphany

As you will recall, I was officially certified as the world's foremost expert on Israeli teenagers’ slang. (Don’t believe me? Check out the original post and see for yourself.)

Thus, I naturally enjoyed this JPost column, which correctly observes that Israeli teenage boys limit their conversations to:

“Five words, and one tiny expression.”


“Walla (hey), achi (bro), achla (cool), sababa (another word for cool), tov (good) and ma koreh (what’s happening).”

But, IMHO, it’s what happened after I finished reading that was even more noteworthy. Indeed, it could only be described as a eureka moment.

Picture this:

Me: {reads interesting newspaper column}

Me: {ponders a related unsolved mystery}

{a light bulb comes on overhead, and an assimon drops}

Me: Aha! I think I’ve got it! Can it work? {does some quick calculations; carries the two; subtracts the nine; and takes the square root of 22,201} Yes! It all makes perfect sense!

That’s right, my friends.

Call me a modern day Archimedes, if you will.

After all, I’ve figured out the solution to one of the modern world’s most perplexing conundrums – namely, how do teenagers handle information which simply can’t be relayed using just walla, achi, achla, sababa, tov, or ma koreh?

And the answer is: They rely on k’ilu (like).

Let me explain. (No there is too much. Let me sum up…)

You see, every so often, teenagers discover that they have no choice but to use a non-canonical word.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a major taboo or even a huge fadichah.

But with the magical powers of k’ilu, any potential awkwardness or embarrassment is avoided.

For instance, say you’re a teenager, and you can’t make it to a certain gathering of your friends.

What do you do?

You tell them, “Ani, k’ilu, lo magia.” (“I’m, like, not coming.”)

Didn’t do your homework?

K’ilu, shachachti.” (“I, like, forgot.”)

Note how k’ilu automatically transforms any term which doesn’t appear in the official teenage lexicon into a perfectly acceptable word.

It’s, k’ilu, truly sababa, no?



  1. Pure genius. You're not the world's foremost expert for nothing!

  2. This is k'ilu truly achla of you to have detected this linguistic device in Israeli teenagers' slang.

  3. Toby - Aw, gee, thanks. {tries - rather unsuccessfully - to assume a modest expression} :-)

    Leah - Shouldn't that be "k'ilu ahavti"... :-)

    Ilana-Davita - LOL! :-)

  4. Love this! Mamash achla. My son is only 9.5 but I'm already seeing the early warning signs...

    Funny isn't it, how nothing really changes? I remember how when I was a teenager adults would complain that we couldn't complete a sentence without the word like in it LOL.

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  5. So many words for cool. I was wondering, how do Israelis represent the W sound in writing, for there is no Hebrew letter that makes it. Israelis have long used the word, "wow," and now you mention another with a W to it. How do they write it?

  6. Robin - Good point. I had, like, the same problem... :-)

    Ariella - Usually, two vavs in a row are used to represent the W sound. So, for instance, the word "walla" in this post is usually spelled:
    and the word "wow" is spelled:

  7. K'ilu is more of "sort of like."
    And everyone get an "achi" hug.

  8. genius. this was pure genius! (k'ilu genius?! lol) :)

  9. Batya - I agree that "sort of like" is a better literal translation, but as Robin noted in her comment above, in this context, I think k'ilu is used the way American kids of my generation used the word "like". And good point about the achi hugs...

    Minnesota Mamaleh - K'ilu, thank you... :-)

  10. Is there something wrong with me if I'm 25 and I still talk like that?

  11. Elisheva - Zeh, k'ilu, lo ba'ayah...


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