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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The funniest thing yet

I say 'yet' because when dealing with culture and language issues there is always the chance of something funnier happening.

Here's the deal:

A religious woman I know heard that Yonah was going to be in the hospital and wished him a 'refu'ah shelaima' (full recovery).  It was obvious that she didn't want to pry, but it was equally obvious that she wanted to know what was wrong that required a hospital stay.

I should point out that my confidence in my medical Hebrew is not nearly has high as when I need to discuss more mundane topics.  Also, although this woman knows almost no English, she enjoys showing off the few English words she knows whenever an opportunity presents itself. 

I knew that 'adenoids' were pretty much the same in Hebrew (adenoidim), but the Hebrew word for 'tonsils' kept escaping me.  I now know that tonsils are 'shkedim' (the same word for 'almonds' in Hebrew) but at the time I couldn't come up with the word.

So rather than pantomime what kind of surgery Yonah was going to have I simply handed her the folded copy of the doctor's  admission instructions which I happened to have in my pocket.

This extremely religious woman scanned the sheet of printed Hebrew and exclaimed in heavily accented English, "Oh, he's having his nuts taken out!"

The look on my face must have been something special because her pride at having uttered an entire English sentence suddenly turned to rosy cheeked embarrassment.  But the real embarrassment came a few moments later when I delicately explained that 'having one's nuts out' meant something quite different than the relatively routine surgery we had scheduled for our son.

As I watched the red in her cheeks spread north and south until every bit of exposed skin was crimson, I felt kind of bad.  But in retrospect, I figure it is better that someone she give her a gentle correction in private than for her to continue using that horrifying expression every time she hears of someone having their tonsil's out.

I know if the table's were turned I'd want to be corrected.

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2008 | Permalink


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OUCH!!! [doubling over]

Anyway, a huge refuah shelema to Yonah, and congrats on being a dad with nerves of steel. I freak when my kids skin their knees, let alone get an operation.

Posted by: psachya | May 13, 2008 3:20:32 PM

I hope Yonah is feeling OK, and that he'll soon reap the benefits of the surgery. I'm still laughing at his "2 Lulus" excitement!

As for the shkaidim/tonsils connection, I've been told that there is an ice cream parlor somewhere in Israel, that has put "tonsil ice cream" on their English menu. . . we've all seen inaccurate/inappropriate translations, but this has to be among the worst!

Posted by: Rachel | May 13, 2008 4:51:33 PM

Ah, I was close... as I was reading, I thought you were going to tell her he was having his 'beitzim' removed...

Posted by: Pesky Settler | May 13, 2008 4:52:01 PM


Back in the day, I recall a skit performed in my school regarding confusion between two yiddish speakers, one of whom was having his tonsils removed. Apparently, at least in some Yiddish dialects, the word for "tonsils" is similar to that for "twins."* I'll leave the jokes to the imagination of the reader.

* my quick-and-dirty research online doesn't confirm this; interestingly, though, the world for "tonsils" that I *did* find was "mandl," which is also the word for "almonds." I wonder if the "tonsils"/"almonds" connection exists in other languages, or is unique to Yiddish/Hebrew...

Posted by: efrex | May 13, 2008 6:18:18 PM

Mandeln! Dutch, German, and Yiddish all say almonds for tonsils. The Hebrew is clearly a direct translation.

In most versions of Arabic, almonds are 'jawz' (goz). I wonder if Persians refer to those things as badam?

Lots of icecream for Yonah.

Posted by: The Back of the Hill | May 13, 2008 8:15:00 PM

Both procedures contribute to a beautiful voice, though.

Posted by: Barzilai | May 13, 2008 9:58:18 PM

Been there, done that.
While speaking to an Israeli patient and wanting to refer to the tonsils, instead of shkeidim I said egozim. I too got a strange look.

Posted by: Larry | May 13, 2008 10:19:28 PM

The connection exists in Russian as well, although in Russian, the word for tonsils is a feminine derivative of the word for almonds, so normally there's not as much confusion... Although I've never tried that one on a foreigner!

Posted by: Irina | May 13, 2008 10:43:30 PM


amygdala "the tonsils," 1541, from L., from Gk. amygdale "almond" (see almond). The anatomical use is as a direct transl, of Ar. al-lauzatan "the two tonsils," lit. "the two almonds," so called by Ar. physicians for fancied resemblance.

Posted by: Barzilai | May 13, 2008 11:17:09 PM

Great to hear that Yonah came through the surgery well. Thanks for the photos too. You are such a cool loving family. What a precious encouragement. Love from the "other" Kiwi Noa

Posted by: Noa | May 13, 2008 11:33:33 PM

Glad to hear that Yonah is recovering nicely.

Also glad to hear that he gets to keep his "(insert your favorite term for them here)" until he gets married in good time.LOL.

Posted by: shmiel | May 14, 2008 12:58:36 AM

Ha! Ha!

Good to start the day off with a laugh. Hope Yonah is feeling better.

Posted by: Baila | May 14, 2008 6:38:18 AM

I want you to know that I am holding you responsible, Dave, for the Danny Thomas spit-take that I just did all over my keyboard! Hope Yonah is on the mend!

Posted by: Marsha in Stamford | May 14, 2008 6:40:31 AM

Thanks for brightening up my day!

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 14, 2008 9:12:01 AM

I have made my share of bloopers. One of my faves, however, was one made by a friend. At the grocery store he requested "shadai'im oaf".

Posted by: gila | May 14, 2008 12:40:57 PM

Refuah Shelaima!

Reminds of the gaffe in our shul many years ago, when the shul president who makes the announcements on shabbat spoke about the upcoming Women's League plant sale, and said "Mechirat Tzitzim"

IMHO, you should have just said, that they were taking out his sh'keidim...it would have avoided the whole situation.

Posted by: Jameel @ The Muqata | May 14, 2008 2:03:36 PM

The look on your face must've been similar to the one on the guy working the counter at the juice bar when my friend Barry - still newly arrived in Israel and with shaky Hebrew skills - walked in with the intention of ordering a glass of carrot juice. But instead of asking for a kos mitz gezer, he requested a kos mitz gever. Oy!

Posted by: Elisson | May 14, 2008 2:20:52 PM

they are also almonds in norwegian... strange. Poor woman... ;-)

Posted by: nrg | May 14, 2008 3:27:03 PM

Thanks for making me LOL at work! :) Hope Yonah is on the mend ....

Posted by: chantyshira | May 14, 2008 4:39:45 PM

Nice. I have a list of moments like this that I'll have to share one day.

Posted by: Jack | May 14, 2008 11:40:40 PM

That is so funny - thanks for the laugh. You truly are a good person for not snorting out loud.

Jameel and Elisson - can you translate please?

Posted by: jaime | May 15, 2008 6:42:11 AM

My pleasure, jaime -

"Kos mitz gezer" = glass of carrot juice.

"Kos mitz gever" = glass of man juice. (Yeef.)

Posted by: Elisson | May 15, 2008 6:57:11 PM

Elisson - LOL what did the guy who work there say? That's just too funny!

Posted by: jaime | May 18, 2008 5:40:20 AM

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