Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A mushroom in your glasses case?

There are some things that become trivial once you master a second language*, but then some things continue to sound weird even after many years have passed.

Recently a new immigrant told me that she doesn't know how to say she's pregnant, so she says she has a little child & points to her abdomen. Actually, in Hebrew, pregnancy is herayon and to be pregnant is b'herayon - literally in pregnancy.

I've been playing with ideas for a post about language for a while & the funniest example that comes to mind is the Hebrew word for vagina - pronounced narteek. Additional meanings of the word are holster or glasses case... The word for yeast infection is peetriya, which also means mushroom (like the kind you eat). So if you go to the doctor to tell him that you have a yeast infection you end up saying something that could just as well mean that you have a mushroom in your glasses case...

*I lived in the US until age 16 & then came to Israel on my own. My parents wanted us to grow up knowing Hebrew, so they always spoke to us in Hebrew at home (despite being native English speakers). This led to many cases of hysterical laughter by people who heard me speak, like when I asked my advisor if she'd like me to 'chop some bread' for her or when I used the biblical (rather than the modern) word for shoulder to tell the doctor that my shoulder hurt. Very embarrassing at the time but, looking back, it is rather funny.


Anonymous said...

You know what's really funny though? When I say I have a yeled katan po, most folks know what I mean. That's the great part about Hebrew. If you know a little, you can generally get your point across.

Bea said...

That's so funny!

I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I hope it gets sorted soon. As for the denial - I'm sure you'll come around eventually. I have to think it'll be an easier transition this time with all your experience behind you. Well, it seems logical, anyway. You can tell me how it plays out in practice.