Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Despicably polite

I learned a new Hebrew word today and with it, I think I understand Israeli culture just a little bit more. My boss asked me today if something was "minoomas" and I told him no. During the rest of the conversation I made it clear that there was no problem with it at all. This confused him and he said as much. Assuming I misunderstood, I asked him what minoomas meant and he said it means polite. This confused me, because I was pretty sure it meant disgusting. I went back to my office and checked my dictionary and sure enough the word for despicable is nimas. The dictionary also confirmed that minoomas was polite. In Hebrew conjugation you can put a mem in front of a word to say that you are doing it. So minamas would be to make something despicable.

Now it is easier to understand a society where with a slight mispronounciation you have changed from being polite to disgusting.

After thinking about it this makes a lot of sense.
The beauty is in the details.

2 comments:

Joe Settler said...

It might also explain why if you say something to an Israeli with the accent slightly on the wrong syllable he will often have no clue as to what you are talking about.

da shevster said...

i dont get it. the only hebrew word i use regularly is sababa