Bumps Along the Way of Words

The first bumps along my daily way with words emerge in the morning, at the breakfast table, while I'm having breakfast. I often jot them down, but they seem too small or trivial in themselves to merit a separate post. Silly attitude, because they continue to fester and annoy me.

Here are a few such bumps, some of them of a recurring nature:

1. What is it with Israelis, writers of Hebrew, that they're so scared of committing themselves to numbers, to exact figures? Naturally, there are cases where an estimate or caution are called for, and you qualify your number with "about". But writers of Hebrew seem to take it to extremes. They refuse to be pinned down.
"… the company has around 25 branches…"
What's the matter, can't you count? Or is it a matter of the Uncertainty Principle? Do branches keep closing down and opening, so no one is ever sure, at any given moment, how many there are?
Would you say the building you live in has "around 12 floors"? I can understand your saying "around 150 people live in my building", because you don't know all the families and you don’t know how many kids each family has… who can keep track, Uzi et al just moved out, Bracha just gave birth again…

It gets worse when they write בערך כ- b'erech ke – or, literally: approximately about.

2. You know how much Israelis like to throw in English words. A popular one is "attractive", used like this, for example:
סביבת קניות מושכת ואטרקטיבית
Svivat kniyot moshechet ve'attraktivit.
How is one supposed to translate it? An attractive and attractive shopping environment?
Well, actually, no. Writers of Hebrew often (or usually) use the adjective "attraktivi" in the sense of worthwhile; attractive because it's profitable. So an innocuous-looking four word phrase in Hebrew turns out to require a workaround in English. Bother.
Anyone feel like trying?

3. "The cream absorbs right away…" – so says the reviewer of various skin care products in the Lookin' Good section of the J. Post's Weekend magazine. I rather like that section, because I like reading reviews of cosmetic and skin-care products I'll never buy. But this recurring mistake bothers me. Absorb is a transitive verb; the cream itself doesn't absorb anything, but is absorbed by the skin. Shame I didn't buy that Nuxe moisturizer while it was on special; I definitely don't intend to shell out NIS 241 for it.

4. Kanyon G Rothschild, the small, noisy mall that I cross twice a week (if I'm conscientious about attending exercise class, located behind that building), has ads in the local paper, advertising its newish household and knickknack shop, Enter. Guess what Enter offers you as incentive to browse and shop?

תחתית מפנקת לספל – tachtit mefaneket le'sefel
– a pampering coaster for your cup. Complete with a picture of a pale-blue hand-shaped coaster. How exciting! A pampering coaster! Who or what exactly is being pampered here? My mug? My desk? Me, seeing that my precious mug is enjoying resting on a ghostly blue hand-shaped thingy?...

5. A current text about shopping centers that I recently translated contained the following sentence:
למעלה ממאה אלף מבקרים, המצביעים ברגליים ומספקים הוכחה יומיומית להצלחת הקונספט.
Literally: More than 100,000 visitors, voting with their feet, are daily proof of the success of the concept.
I googled, and in Hebrew it seems that "voting with your feet" is used to express support. In English, however, "voting with your feet" means showing your dissatisfaction. FYI.

6. For the grand finale of this post, I chose the most pretentious bit of copywriting I've seen in a long time. The contractor Gindi is building a new development in Nachlat Yehuda, the area just north of Rishon LeZion. It's called Nachlat HaHadasha – New Nachlat, and boasts expensive new homes, some of them fashionable lofts. So far, so good. Huge signs were erected along the road next to the building site, with the following slogan:

נחלת החדשה: זו לא דירה, זה לא בית פרטי, זו חוויה תלת מימדית מעולם אחר.

Nachlat HaHadasha: Zu lo dira, zeh lo bayit prati, zu havaya tlat meimadit me'olam acher.
In free translation:
New Nachlat: It's not an apartment, it's not a [detached] house, it's a three-dimensional experience from another world.




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