Hebrew Hear-Say: I'll drink to that!

By
April 2, 2009 15:12
3 minute read.

This has been a good year for wines - at least from the language point of view. Remember the old days, when the only kosher wine was the extra sweet kiddush wine (yayin lekiddush)? Those days are so far in the past that the terminology hasn't been able to keep up with the country's flourishing wine industry. I'm not sure how the French academy is going to take it (some might suffer from sour grapes), but the Hebrew Language Academy has cultivated an extremely bountiful crop of words relating to wine, just in time for Pessah. The French, of course, have had a word for it for ages, but the close to 300 terms that the Hebrew Academy has come up with suit different tastes. A special committee at the academy, led by Shai Segev, has been working on the new terminology for two years, and the results say a great deal about how the drinking culture (tarbut hashtiya) has changed here. Some of the terms are obvious, sommelier, for example has converted to otzer yayin. And some have been around a long time, improving with age - batzir (grape harvest/vintage), for instance, is more an ancient tradition than a new word. Some might go down better than others: Ekdam for an aperitif does not yet roll off the tongue, but it does give you a taste of what the committee has been working on, and eventually eftar for digestif might go down well even if it's a little harsh on the palate and ears at the moment. Liqueur translates nicely into likcare and alcohol level into kehilut. Nothing to whine about there. Dry (yavesh), sweet (matok) and semi-dry (hetzi yavesh) are fairly standard. But some of the terminology looks like the committee members not only studied the crop but psychoanalyzed it: There's honest wine (yayin hagun), balanced wine (yayin me'uzan) and complex wine (yayin murkav). There's aggressive wine (yayin az), spicy wine (yayin metubal), clear wine (tzalul) and sparkling (mevabe'a). Don't mention the grapes of wrath (invei za'am). Volatiles are nedifim. And brut has become yavesh ben yavesh - which sounds more like a curse, if you've had one too many, in my opinion. Part of the fun when reviewing a new batch - make that atzva - of Hebrew words created in the academy's cellar (martef) - OK, in its Givat Ram offices - is learning all sorts of things. I'm not sure when you'll need to drop "bottle shock" or "bottle sickness" into conversation (a fault introduced mainly by shaking the wine), but in case you do, the phrase is helem bakbuk. And you don't want to throw around phrases like a dipping rod if you've had too much to drink (but if you ever need it, it is a madid). It could make you blush - blush wine is yayin samuk, by the way. A flask is a bakbuk kis; a carafe, lagin. But the experts are still po(u)ring over a decanter and decanting, returned to the committee for further tastings te'imot - I mean, discussions. A corkscrew is officially a mahletz. Recorking is shipkuk. An aftertaste is shiyoret, and a hangover, you shouldn't know of it, hamarmoret - a wonderful word linking hemer - a word for wine - with the form of tzmarmoret and s'harhoret - chills and dizziness. I can smell the sweet aroma (besomet) of success. Although, I smelled a whiff of controversy. The Web site spells besomet with the letter sin, whereas the booklet 60 Milim (60 Words) produced by the academy last year for the country's anniversary has it with a samech. A call to the academy's Dr. Keren Dubnov clarified the situation: The vinteurs and wine professionals who worked on the terminology were apparently insistent that the sin (making the word more like bosem, perfume) would be the better option, while the linguistic experts tend to prefer the samech in almost every case possible. ("If it wasn't for the matriarch Sarah, they might have got rid of it completely," quips Dubnov.) Since either spelling was possible from a historic viewpoint looking at the sources, they agreed that a sin, in this case, is not wrong. For the rest of the list, no need to wait to hear it on the grapevine: Just go to the academy's site at http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il. But remember: You might be dying for a drink, but no wine is worth dying for - don't drink and drive. This Pessah, may your spirits remain high and your alcohol stay down - and let's raise a glass in that quintessentially Jewish toast: L'haim! [email protected]


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