Gefilte Fish Out of Water

Suck Dust
August 26, 2009, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Funny Hebrew


There are many more words in English than there are in Hebrew.  It’s something like one million words in the English language to only about 80,000 words in Hebrew.

As someone who’s very expressive, this totally makes me prefer English.  I want more ways to say stuff, not less!

However, the upside to this equation for Hebrew is that it ends up often being a more poetic language.  It’s graphic and simple.  What it sometimes “loses” (compared to English) in preciseness or specificity, it gains in directness and common sense clarity.  An example:  in English you could be super precise describing the onset of a storm coming out to sea – a low pressure system on the north end of the sea brought on high winds and swells to thirty feet – while in Hebrew, you might say what translates to – a storm was “thrown” to the sea, and if the storm got really bad you would translate it as – it came and “stormed” against them.  There are much better examples, but you get the idea.  It’s less descriptive…but less diluted, too.

Where am I going with this?  Actually to a funny place.  We were learning the word for vacuum cleaner this week.  It’s a smichoot, which is a Hebrew noun structure that combines two nouns to make a third word.  For instance, the way you say “hospital” in Hebrew is to take the words for “house” and “sick” and put them next to each other.  It becomes basically “house of sick.”  A coffee shop is “house of coffee.”  A school is “house of book.”

So, how do you say vacuum cleaner in Hebrew?

שואב אבק

Know what it translates to?  SUCK DUST.

That means that when you’re asking someone for the vacuum cleaner in Hebrew, you’re saying, Can I please have the suck-dust?  Our suck-dust is broken.  We need to go to Best Buy and get a new suck-dust.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this is funny.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Do you know where you can buy a suck-dust? I have these space bags that you need a vacuum cleaner for. And Israelis clean floors by pushing dirty water around!

Comment by Lauren

Hi, Lauren – are you being serious or silly? (i can’t tell). I am actually going to buy one in the next few weeks, so I can let you know. And by the way, I’m totally coming to the airport Dec 30 to meet you, so let me have the latest details when you get them. xo

Comment by skatp

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