the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And the veenerrrr is...

The road to good English in Israel is often fraught with translation potholes.

Sometimes that's because the company, business or official state agency doing the translating is just not all that interested in, well, translating.

Take the package I recently saw for a sponge for the shower, the kind that's soft on one side and a bit bristly on the other. In Hebrew, the package described it as a "two-layer sponge to refresh and encourage circulation." I was a bit startled to discover that the English translation was... "toilet sponge."

But other times, there are obstreperous obstacles that crop up in a translator's path - words that exist in the twilight zone of Hebrish, that come from English but aren't really English, that are transformed into Hebrew but aren't exactly Hebrew either.

I came across such a mongrel last week, while translating an op-ed by Haaretz writer Doron Rosenblum.

In Hebrew, he wrote about "the feeling of veeneriut" ("וינריות"), which has its roots in that most classical of Hebrew words, "veener," a.k.a. "winner." This derivation led to the logical conclusion that "veeneriut" could mean only one thing: winnerness.

There was just one problem, which native English speakers have doubtless already identified: "Winnerness" is not a word that exists in the English language.

That's right, the losers stole our word and put it in a form we can't even use.

I ended up going with "the feeling of being a winner," because we are, after all, supposed to be translating into English - even it's not always clear which language we're translating from.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"frought" should be fraught and to understand the use of toilet by Hebrew speakers you have to know a little French (look up "toilette".

July 01, 2007  
Blogger Shoshana Kordova said...

What can I say, you cought - ahem, I mean caught - me with a typo. Just fixed it.

July 01, 2007  

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