Hebrew is a complex language, with twenty-two ancient letters uniting to create a variety of popular sayings shared by many Israelis. But these hip phrases are sometimes more complicated than the letters that created them — they mean one thing, but when Google translated, they spell out something completely different.
Not so helpful when you’re trying to keep up with your cool Israeli cousins. Every time I visit my family in Israel I’m embarrassed by my outdated slang.
So here’s my chance to give back, and share 10 hip Hebrew phrases (that sound ridiculous when literally translated into English).
1. Al Ha Panim
English translation: “on the face.”
Actual meaning: a Hebrew phrase used to describe something horrible.
Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it?
2. Chaval Al Hazman
English translation: “pity on the time.”
Actual meaning: it can mean either “a waste of time” or “awesome.”
It has a double meaning. Depending on the context, it can mean something is awesome or that it is a complete waste of time. Language barriers abound.
3. Ani Zorem
English translation: “I’m flowing” (like a stream).
Actual meaning: “going with the flow.”
For example: Your girlfriend asks what you want to do tonight, and you answer “Ani Zorem” or “I’m going with the flow.”
4. Ptsatsot La Gabot
English translation: “bombs to the eyebrows.”
Actual meaning: “awesome” or to refer to someone who is smoking hot.
Probably a word you want to avoid saying at Ben Gurion Airport. I’m sure. Oy.
5. L’Asot Chayim
English translation: “to do life.”
Actual meaning: refers to having a badass time.
6. Sof Haderech
English translation: “end of the road.”
Actual meaning: when something is incredible, like Aunt Sima’s cookies.
Could definitely be misinterpreted, and quickly offend some chefs in my family.
7. Kapara Alecha
English translation: “to atone over you.”
Actual meaning: a term of endearment, (mostly by my Moroccan Aunt).
It’s relevant actually, because we are right now in the time of what’s called “shovavim” — which cosmically is apparently a wonderful time to forgive, and kapparot is another way to atone for one’s own sins, as opposed to the act of forgiving another. In any case, Kapara Alecha makes no sense (literally) but lots of sense spiritually… if that’s of any consolation.
8. Ani Saroof Alayeech
English translation: “I’m burnt on you.”
Actual meaning: used to tell someone you adore them.
Another similar one with the same meaning is Ani Choleh Alayeech which literally translates to “I’m sick on you.”
9. Adding Retzach to the end of phrases
English translation: it literally means “murder.”
Actual meaning: it’s another hip lingo thing, and adds extra umph.
Use it gently. For example: “Koev lee retzach” is used when something hurts really badly, but literally translated means “it hurts me murder.”
10. Sim Ayin Al Zeh
English translation: “put an eye on it.”
Actual meaning: a phrase used to ask someone to watch something for you.
Sounds like a weird foreign delicacy.
Any new Hebrew sayings you’ve picked up that are ridiculous once translated? I’d love to hear them!
And that’s not all: here are Israeli Sayings That Make Absolutely No Sense When Translated Into English (Part 2)
For more about Becky Tahel Bordo, visit Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @BeckyTBordo,
or her blog www.SILIMT.com.