Saturday, May 26, 2007


During the run-up to the season finale of Lost (which was terrific, by the way), I was watching (while working) some past episodes available on the internet which were apparently downloaded from Israeli TV, because they had Hebrew subtitles.

"Lost" in Hebrew, by the way, is Avudim, which is correct in Modern Hebrew, but made me wonder why one couldn't use the present participle Ovdim as in Biblical Hebrew. Ordinarily you wouldn't use a passive participle with an intransitive verb (would you?). Comments welcome.

I learned some vocabulary. When Hurley calls someone "dude," the subtitle said ‏בנאדם‎, written exactly that way. I knew that Aramaic barnash was used colloquially to mean "guy," but I wasn't aware that benadam could mean "dude" (or perhaps "chap" or "fellow").

Also, when Hurley says, "I screwed up," the translation is ‏פשׁלתי‎, pishalti. I wasn't aware that this root occurred in the Piel, and doesn't occur in the big Even-Shoshan dictionary or in the Bantam-Megiddo. There is a Hiphil that means to roll up sleeves or pant legs. My guess is that somehow the root ‏פשׁל‎ is related to ‏פתל‎, to twist or pervert. But how did this meaning develop? On the street or did someone in the Language Academy decide that Israelis needed a way to say "to screw up"? (Don't we all?)


Jan-Wim Wesselius said...

Dear Ed,
Pishel is a relatively new slang word in MH (undoubtedly the reason why it is not yet in many dictionaries), deriving from Arabic (root f-sh-l). But in online dictionaries such as or you find it as a translation of "blunder" or "screw up". I wonder if it is pronounced with initial f, I know the word only from written texts. The first time I saw it, I thought it was an error for kashal!
Jan-Wim Wesselius, Kampen, The Netherlands

Anonymous said...

The initial פ is pronounced "f" as in all modern loanwords from Arabic with an initial ف, from Falastin to felafel.

בנאדם is used all the time in TV and film subtitles for "dude" or "man" (as in "Hey, man" or "Oh, man!"), but it has an old-fashioned sound and you're not likely to hear it on the street. "אחי" would be more like modern usage.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't want to say אובדים b/c it means "they lose." אבודים are people who are lost/hopeless.


Anonymous said...

The noun "fashla" (= a screw up) has been used for quite a while in Israel; it's not new.

(Try Googling it).