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, February 4, 2010

Pres. Obama fathered my child... least according to Rimonit, who has taken to "reading" the newspaper, in the course of which she likes to point to every photo of a man (including Obama) and say "Abba!"

I took the opportunity to introduce the concept of man, woman, boy and girl, leading to an unforeseen cross-linguistic moment. When she saw a picture of a boy on a riding toy (on the box her riding toy came in, which we now use as a catchall surface for stuff I keep next to the rocking chair), she said "bimba" (the Hebrew for riding toy, which she somehow pronounces "Ima," as in me) and I pointed out that the little person sitting on the bimba was a boy.

To that, she motioned to the boy with her hand to jump off the box and play with her, calling out "Bo'i!" (the feminine form of "come"). I suppose that's an improvement over her previous pronunciation, in which "bo'i" (which she uses indiscriminately) sounded more or less the same as "bye," so you were never quite sure if she wanted to go hang out somewhere else without you or to take you somewhere, usually to the kitchen for some "ummy."

Speaking of which, I was kind of surprised when she started using "yummy" as a synonym for "food," since I never deliberately used it that way. But I can see where the confusion might have come in, since I often use "food" and "yummy" together and place more of an emphasis on the "yummy."

In addition to the Ima/bimba and boy/bo'i/bye confusion, there are a few other words RP uses that sound more or less the same, even though you wouldn't really think they would. For instance, "water bottle," which is how she now describes actual water bottles as well as Kinneret's botles (or the baby bottle RP sometimes uses, which is actually filled with water and therefore is kind of a water bottle), sounds surprisingly like the way she pronounces "Gruffalo," the name of an awesome kids book by British author Julia Donaldson, and Warren often thinks she is saying "Abba lo!" In other words, No Abba right now, try again later (she does the same thing with me - she's nothing if not mercurial, but then again, she is 2).

Also, she says "ki" to mean both Kinneret and the very similar-sounding corn flakes. In the last few days she has also switched from indiscriminately saying "kah" (take/here, masculine version) to indiscriminately saying "k'hi" (feminine version), which often sounds like "ki." Of course, an actual key is also a ki.

In addition to command words in Hebrew like "kah/k'hi" and "bo/bo'i," RP has also picked up lots of sharing words at gan, which she uses often at home:
Lo (no)
Dai (stop/enough)
(both the above are generally repeated several times and come with lots of exlamation marks)
Lo laga'at! (don't touch - she usually leaves off the "t" sound, though)
Sheli! (mine)
Ani! (me, as in Let me do it)
Ani po! (I'm here, as in don't you dare try to sit next to me)
and, as I mentioned in a previous post, Oy va voy (as in, What do you say to a baby sister rapidly approaching your new Mrs. Potato Head that Adaya/Savta Lea got you? Answer: Lo laga'at! Oy va voy Ki!)

But to be fair, she knows both "hug" and "hibbuk," and distributes both generously, very much including to Ki.

And although she uses some Hebrew words at home, she has also begun distinguishing between Hebrew and English words for the same objects, using English words with us and Hebrew words with her babysitter, Efrat.

At home, she uses "shoes," "socks" and "jacket" a lot, since those are some of her favorite things. But as soon as Efrat comes, she rushes to get her na'ala'im, garba'im and me'il - and/or just say the words - knowing that Efrat usually takes them to the park. She also associates the word "avoda" (work) with Efrat, because once when Rimonit said Abba or Ima, Efrat told her Ima and Abba were "ba'avoda." Now, in addition to names for outerwear, one of the first things Rimonit says when she sees Efrat is "avoda!"


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