Last week I heard a woman describe her first visit to the yarkan (produce store) as a new olah (immigrant) in the early 70’s. Everyone knew where the produce store was, because a swarm of flies could be seen from a distance. She brought along her teenage daughter for assistance, as the daughter had already spent a year in Israel.
The new olah asked for a kilogram of shratzim (vermin). The proprieter offered her 10 kilo, for free! The olah had meant to ask for carrots, which sort of rhymes with shratzim.
I asked my Facebook friends to share their favorite Hebrew bloopers as new immigrants.
- Maya bargained a taxi fare up from 15 to 18 shekels.
- Shelley once bargained in the Jerusalem Shouk to buy 3 wooden camels at 300 old shekels each, then offered 1000 for all three!!
- Jean’s friend was asked the time on a bus, and answered, “Ani lo betulah” (I am not a virgin) when she meant to say that she wasn’t sure.
- Jean’s friend also overheard another poor schlemiel ask for chicken breasts (literally) at the meat counter. The whole queue was giggling. (shadayim instead of chazeh)
- Jean herself asked a nice couple on the bus if her ticket was for one-way or horseradish.
- Rut once requested to “switch” or “exchange” something, but got confused and said the word that means, er, “to pass gas.”
- Malke: “I once had to lecture to a group of ophthalmologists and spent an hour talking about adashim (lentils) instead of adashot (lenses). I couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring at me blankly.”
- Aliza: “I was teaching a statistics class, and instead of predictions (tachaziyot), said bras. Luckily I realized what I had said, but still didn’t know the right word. I think I wound up mumbling something about prophecy.”
- I called up someone in the shul to complain about a nazelet (runny nose) instead of a nezilah (leak). It wasn’t so long ago either!