Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Code Words

Every language has code words.  These literally mean one thing, but have a specific context understood to a person who understands the culture.  They are similar to slang, which represents alternative or original definitions to existing words, but can be distinguished.
Modern Hebrew has many such terms.  The classic one every blond (and not so blond) female who visits Israel learns is the invitation  לשתות קפה(lishtot kafe], to drink some coffee.  It is the equivalent to the offer to see someone’s art collection.   While it is true that you may drink some coffee (or see some art), the invitation is to get to know you, in the biblical sense.  If you do something that appears less than brilliant, someone might say   תהי בריא[tiheye bari], literally be healthy.  Actually, it is the Israeli equivalent of the southern expression bless your heart, meaning that you are rather stupid.  When an Israeli, says לך תוכיח שאין לך אחות [lech tochiah sheh ain lecha ahot], literally go prove that you have no sister, what they mean is that there is no way to prove that you are telling the truth. 
If you know of any local examples of coded words in your language, I would be interested in hearing.
As the Hagashash Hahiver, the Israeli comedy quartet that was the “Shakespeare” of modern Hebrew, would say סע בשלום, המפתחות בפנים [sa beshalom, hamavtahot bifnim], safe journey, the keys are inside, or as any Israeli would understand, it is time to go.

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