Tuesday, June 06, 2006


In my post about words that begin with קט and had the meaning "to cut", I didn't mention the root קטר. It doesn't seem to be associated with the other words. It originally meant smoke, and is the root of the word ketoret קטורת - meaning incense. In modern Hebrew it gave rise to the word kitor קיטור - steam.

Therefore, when I would hear people use the root קטר as a verb - l'kater - and referring to someone who was whining or complaining, I always assumed it meant someone "blowing off steam." However, the origin is something else entirely.

The slang term derives from the Yiddish word for male cat - kuter. The sounds a male cat makes are similar to those of a whiner and grumbler. So you can call someone like that a kuter קוטר in Hebrew, and ask them to stop complaining already - תפסיק לקטר כבר tafsik l'kater kvar!

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