Sunday, March 07, 2010


I didn't mention it in the previous post, but pereg פרג (poppy / millet) isn't related to pargit פרגית (young chicken). Another unrelated word is the verb פרגן - "to take pleasure in someone else's achievement / success" - with the associated noun פירגון firgun. It's an unusual word in that a) it seems to be an Israeli concept, with no matching word in English, and b) it's frequently claimed in Israel that the concept doesn't exist (i.e. Israelis aren't likely to give firgun, but rather begrudge each other. For an extensive review of this concept, see this article.)

Firgun is a Modern Hebrew slang word, borrowed from the Yiddish farginen, which in turn comes from the German vergönnen or gönnen-  originally meaning "to grant, allow", which may have a cognate in the English word "own".

The concept can be found in Talmudic Hebrew as ayin tova / yafa  עין טובה/ יפה - "a good eye", or in the opposite - ayin tzara / ra'ah עין צרה / רעה - "a narrow eye". But Nesher ("Hebrew in Jeans") says those phrases are considered today "flowery language" and not commonly used. Avineri in Yad Halashon (p. 531) and Almagor-Ramon in Rega Shel Ivrit (213) suggest substituting the Hebrew root רתה for the verb and ריתוי ritui  for the noun, but I've never heard them used.

But why should we begrudge the word firgun its success? As this bumper sticker I've seen around (from Bank Discount?) says - "Fargen - why should you care?":

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