Hebrew Hear-Say: Politically incorrect

The Hebrew Language Academy can be encouraged by the landslide victory of the word "makdimot," which has replaced "primaries" in the Hebrew media and rolls nicely off the Hebrew tongue

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March 15, 2006 10:49
1 minute read.
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Considering Israelis don't so much talk about politics as live it, it's strange that the Hebrew language has yet to come up with a home-grown word for the national hobby instead of the borrowed politica. The Hebrew Language Academy's Rahel Selig says that politica (like the name of the academia where she works, for that matter) just stuck. Democratia, too, also seems to have nothing to fear in the linguistic sense. It's a winner, election after election. But if Selig had had her way, certain foreign phrases would have departed with the British when the sovereign Knesset in Jerusalem took over from parliament in London. Hebrew-language purists, would be happy to see, for example, the terms "coalizia" and "opposizia" defeated and replaced by popular vote with the words "yahda" (from the word yahad, together) and negda (from neged, opposed). The vote isn't in yet on these terms, but the Hebrew Language Academy can be encouraged by the landslide victory of the word "makdimot," which has replaced "primaries" in the Hebrew media and rolls nicely off the Hebrew tongue in countless talk shows, arguments, debates and chance conversations. Some words have entered Hebrew language dictionaries like the standard Even-Shushan in a less than politically correct manner, however. At a time when the phrase "political convictions" increasingly seems to refer to the considerable number of the country's elected under investigation, it is not surprising that the word "politician" - in Hebrew, "politikai" has come to be used as a derogatory word meaning "schemer," as in: "Don't trust that guy, he's a 'politikai katan,' a 'little politician.'" The poor image of the Knesset and its members is not likely to improve without a major electoral reform, but while the Jewish concept of "tikun olam," "repairing the world," is gaining widespread popularity abroad, the only everyday Hebrew word for "reform" remains the foreign "reforma."

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