Hebrew Hear-Say: The heat is on

Summertime and the living is... Well, you can fill in the blanks for yourselves. All I can say is that those jumping fish that George Gershwin made so famous were probably just gasping like the rest of us in this heat. If summer temperatures continue to rise like this locally, I'm sure that some inventive Israeli is going to start marketing fresh fish - already cooked. Growing up in England, I'm used to small talk about the weather. There, it is always used to break the metaphorical ice (even before the floods). But lately I've noticed how many Israelis are doing it too. The evening weather forecast, "tahazit mezeg ha'avir," is listened to with more attention than any defense or diplomatic forecasts. It's not the people who have changed; it's the weather. We're used to it being hot - hom yuli/ogust is a standard Hebrew phrase to describe the standard midsummer heat. But not quite this hot. As they say around here, afilu ziknei Tzfat (even the elders of Safed) don't remember it being this bad. The sun is scorching (lohet) and the result is hom eimim (a terrible heat) the exact opposite of kor klavim (the cold of dogs) which we grumble about in the winter. (Some free but valuable advice particularly to young women still learning Hebrew: Don't translate "I'm hot" or "I'm cold" ["ani hama/kara"] word for word unless you're prepared for the consequences. What you probably mean to say is "ham li/kar li.") Put it down to global warming, still referred to in Hebrew as the Greenhouse Effect (efekt hahamama.) Mindful of Mark Twain's dictum that "weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article on it," I was not going to mention it, but found myself unable to concentrate on anything else in this heat. The heat wave (gal hom, often used interchangeably - if not quite correctly - with sharav or the Arabic hamsin) dictates the tone. "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get," goes another Twainism. So I guess it was always thus. For sure, summertime memories are strongest and sweetest. Walking in the rain might be considered romantic by the hopelessly in love, but soggy shoes, dripping clothes and the smell of wet dogs just don't give you the same warm feeling inside that summer brings. A classic Israeli summer includes to a trip to the beach (hof hayam), although these are more crowded than in the past. Here a whole new generation is carrying on the beten-gav tradition. Literally "tummy-back" it refers to the art of getting an even tan and incorporates a whole concept of doing nothing much but lying around, listening to the sound of the water (or the annoying thwack of the matkot ball game), watching the waves (obstructed by a lifeguard, matzil, flexing his muscles both literally and figuratively) and feeling good about the world (until the kids run by tossing sand in your eyes and food). A number of Hebrew songs have been sung in summer's praise. Yigal Bashan's "Kayitz" (Summer) is still a classic, although slightly dated: The phrase "simu shemen" (put on oil) is a reminder of the days when a tan was considered beautiful and not the precursor of skin cancer. But simu krem hagana (put on sunscreen protection cream) somehow just doesn't have the right sound for the song. And the "drink more water, there's no fizzy drink" ("shtu od mayim, ein gazoz," while in itself still sensible advice, sounds ancient: With the plethora of soda pops on offer, the word "gazoz" has gone flat out of use. Other childhood memories have melted away over the years. While Hebrew still distinguishes between ice cream (glida), ice cream on sticks (artikim) and ice popsicles (kartivim), the Eskimo Limon made famous in the eponymous film is barely a sticky stain on an ancient T-shirt. Kids nowadays are more likely to have what many abroad call an "igloo," known locally by the brand names "Shlukit" or "Popeyes" (frequently pronounced pop-ice) - an iced treat in a bag. And on the same subject, a colleague would like to find out if there is any truth in the explanation he heard that the Hebrew phrase "pa'am shlishit glida" (literally: "the third time, an ice cream") - used when you've seen somebody twice by chance in quick succession - is a corrupted remnant of a saying from the British Mandate period: "If I see you again, I'll scream." Any suggestions out there? Wherever you are and whatever the weather, be cool or as they say around here: "kool." liat@jpost.com