Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The magic words

It was basically a case of life imitating art - assuming, of course, that you’re someone who considers classic computer games to be art…

If you – like yours truly and erstwhile blogger Einshem (I’m hoping that eventually he’ll get tired of my not-so-subtle hints and start blogging again… :-)) – grew up playing the original, text-based version of Adventure, you’ll no doubt recall that if you didn’t know the game’s magic words (e.g. xyzzy and plover), you couldn’t get very far.

I share this bit of gaming lore with you, because not too long ago, something similar happened to me in real life.

It’s not that I mean to brag or anything (because we all know that bloggers like myself are, by definition, extremely humble and modest…), but I like to think that for an olah, my Hebrew is relatively good.

However, when confronted by a native Israeli who has a habit of mumbling and swallowing entire syllables and words in lieu of enunciating, I admit that I’m often at a loss.

I simply can’t understand what they’re trying to say.

Thus, my natural response used to be either, “slichah?” (“excuse me?”) or simply, “mah?” (“what?”).

The problem with this approach was that my interlocutor would usually take it as a cue to start speaking to me in broken English (at worst) or Heblish (at best).

Which is, needless to say, rather annoying.

Fortunately, however, YZG - ever chivalrous – recently gave me the magic phrase which takes you from the debris room back into the building gets one out of this type of predicament.

He explained that his solution is to say, “slichah lo shamati,” (“excuse me, I couldn’t hear…”) and added that it immediately causes the other person to begin speaking louder and clearer.

And, in fact, the next time I found myself in this situation, I used YZG’s phrase, and sure enough, it worked like, well, magic.

Now, if only YZG could tell me how to get out of the maze of twisty passages, all alike…



P.S. The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Esser Agaroth for including my interview with Professor Ainlee Mussag (i.e. my most recent Heblish post)…


  1. OMG, not only are these the Hebrew words I need, but somewhere, deep, DEEP in my memory is this game. Like hundreds of hours logged watching geek hacker nerd friends PLAY this game. It is all a distant blur, swimming back up into my consciousness... thanks!

  2. How clever and simple. That's fantastic.

  3. Jennifer - Glad to be of service... :-)

    Ariella and Rivki - Those are the best kinds, no? :-)

  4. I often used this phrase with my students, for various reasons: they mumbled, I think only I understood what they meant, they really didn't speak loud enough.
    I'll need to remember to use it abroad too.

  5. Ilana-Davita - they mumbled
    Somewhere floating around my Drafts folder, I have a half-written post about teenagers' favorite pastime - namely, mumbling... :-)

  6. Love the tip, the words and the -ahem- reminder to us mumblers! :)

  7. Galit - LOL! :-) Have a wonderful week!


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