Monday, June 10, 2013

Tennis Localization

Tennis is a global game.  Unlike most sports, even the rules are identical worldwide.  What does vary is the language and terms used on the court.  You can know where you are by listening to the language of the players.

 Israeli has its own peculiar linguistic environment.  First, there are the necessary terms of scoring.  Since English is quite influential here, many players use the English terms: out instead of חוץ [hutz]; deuce instead of  שוויון [shivion]; and set point instead of  נקודת מערכה [nekodat me’oraca].

Secondly, there a few wonderful religious phases that can be applied to tennis situations.  For example after a service let, a player can say פעמיים כי טוב  [pa’amayim ki tov], meaning “twice because it was good” referring to third day of creation when the phrase “it was good” is used two times.  Similarly, if a player wants two serves to warm up before starting the set, s/he can say “ שתיים לאליחו  [shtiyim le Eliahu], meaning two for Eliahu in reference to the custom on Pesach to leave a cup of wine for Eliahu.  Admittedly without holy roots, a lucky shot can result in a comment like  יותר מזל משכל [yotar mazal me sechel], meaning more luck than brains, the Hebrew equivalent of better lucky than good.

The real Israeli influence is felt in curses, a mandatory part of any sport. In the case of Israel, the localization is internationalization, i.e. people curse in all languages.  You can hear Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, Rumanian, and Yiddish, sometimes more than in one in the same sentence.  Since the person is speaking a foreign language, there are no holds barred in terms of the words used, which is a bit embarrassing if you actually understand what is being said.  Even a mild “oops” comes outs as oy vay and oy givald sometimes.

So, playing tennis is not only an athletic experience, but a cultural one also.

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