Monday, February 13, 2006


Slang is one of the most difficult things to remain current on, especially for a new immigrant. I've been in Israel for nearly ten years, but have never fully caught up on all the slang here. Now some of the slang I can figure out on my own. Much new Israeli slang comes from English, and even when it's pronounced with a strong accent, I can still figure out what סו פאר סו גוד means. Another main source of Israeli slang is Yiddish. Not only were my parents born in the US, but my grandparents as well. So I didn't hear almost any Yiddish growing up. But some Yiddish has entered the American slang lexicon, so it isn't a far stretch to realize that l'najez has the same meaning as "to nudge".

The other main source of Israeli slang is Arabic. Here's a language I didn't hear at all growing up, and my exposure to it hasn't grown much since moving here. When I worked in an English speaking environment, I didn't hear much Arabic based slang either. But when I started working in an all-Israeli company, I would hear it all the time, and never understood what they were talking about. Some of it I picked up over time, but until I found Rubik Rosenthal's Dictionary of Israeli Slang I never knew the origins of the phrases. Now after all these years - I finally understand what my coworkers were saying.

One phrase which originated in Arabic that I learned the meaning of via Rubik's book is ya waradi. This exclamation was popularized by the character Omleta on last year's season of the hit TV show Eretz Nehederet. What I found interesting about the listing of the phrase in the slang dictionary is that the origin is actually in Italian. Ya Waradi, according to Rosenthal, seems to mean "Watch out!". And the source is the Italian word guardia.

What's the connection between waradi and guardia? Well, it turns out there's a connection between W and G in English as well. As explained here, the German language had a W sound that didn't have a match in Romance languages, and was subsituted with G. English is a combination of both language families, and therefore has words beginning with both letters: guarantee/warranty, guerrilla/war, guile/wile, and of course our guard/ward(en).

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