“Guy made me nervous… so of course I had to hack him to death. What, I had a choice?”

One of the sick and annoying effects of having to speak only Hebrew 90% of the day is doing without the nuances built into English, among other ‘real tongues’.

Like, for today’s lesson: ‘being nervous, upset, flustered’ as opposed to ‘feeling enraged, yea unto ‘homicidal’
Us Mosaics, it seems, have one(1) word for both these kinds of snow: ‘Atz-ba-ni’. An adjective built from the root ‘Etzev’ meaning simply ‘nerve’ as in ‘the nervous system‘. To ‘become nervous’ is ‘le’heet-atz-ben’. An emotional state that, once having been stated aloud in the only vocab we have, promptly conflates fear… and loathing, so to speak.
I’m writing this with a loud crop-duster helicopter 100 feet over my head this early AM. In English, (still ‘legal’ for my inner discourse), I said to myself: “Dat guy makes me nervous!”   Fear, mainly, with a sizable worry for the pilot’s longevity mixed with worry that his detached rotor will destroy my precious lettuce when he crashes.
Yet, in pleasantries with my neighbor at the time, the implications of a simple ‘Hoo me’atz-ben oti’ (‘He maketh me nervous) conveyed an inseparable implication of my supposed dream to ‘shoot the bastard out of the sky!’
Why should this be so?
Well, it shouldn’t, and, beset this morning by a host of other, lower-altitude insults to decency by the local natives, I even explored a cheap (and false) alt-right explanation for the linguistic confusion:
It’s the Jews, dammit. Something bothers ’em, it’s automatic; go to ‘smite!’ Feel anxious and un-prepared at, say, a job interview? Well then, plan revenge. The gall of the guy demanding to know how many years I got on C++! I shall find his car in the lot and wreak vehicular revenge.

But, on second thought, (Yeah, as in: ‘on the other hand… I have…um.. different fingers’) I recall Jesus, of my early youth, and His Understanding: “Forgive them, for they haven’t even the words to know what they do-eth!”
Meanwhile the chopper has gone onto greener pastures to do his ‘Uncontrolled Inverted Impact into Terrain’.
And I’m left pondering how in the hell to say: ‘ I’m feeling anxious, conflicted, worried, yet not ipso facto malevolent.” in Hebrew, a language for which the Heb>Eng part of the dictionary generally inhabits less than a quarter of the heavy tome.
Other ‘gaps’, so no one should think this is an isolated incident:
“I like you” vs “I love you.” Makes it impossible to tell a girl at the Quickee-Mart that you appreciate her help, without risking incarceration.
‘Paint’ (the substance in a can) vs ‘Color/ shade’ Same word
‘Etz’, ‘Wood’ (the building material) vs ‘a tree’ Same dumb word; I built my house here with lumber… and they insist on calling it a ‘tree-house!’
‘Maf-te-ach’ both a wrench… and the key to your house.

Ok, all languages have their dual-meanings. So why do I feel so nervous’/’irritated’? by a simple helicopter? A: I can’t say… and that’s the reason.


13 thoughts on ““Guy made me nervous… so of course I had to hack him to death. What, I had a choice?”

  1. happierheathen

    I gotta say, the thing I like best about English is its malleability. It leaves lots of room for personality and inflection without all of the B&D of the romance languages or the aesthetic brutality of less romantic ones. A couple hundred words for snow is nice and all, but a couple hundred words for cunnilingus is the sign of a properly advanced culture.

    1. solberg73 Post author

      Agreed.. depending of course on what constitutes cultural advancement.
      Although having ‘Liquor’ and ‘lick her’ as choices probably beats spending one’s years chopping out Easter Island stone Madonnas

      1. promisesunshine

        long conversation about perspectives on language. actually, it lasted only a minute or two. and it was all in my head.
        it all started with a bazooka (even though i don’t think you mentioned that) perhaps shooting bazooka (gum) at a helicopter.
        ok then. carry on.

  2. somewittyhandle

    This helicopter of yours takes a panoramic tour of a very important point about language, before making a perfect landing on the big H. Heteronym.

    The value of having many different words for snow is not, simply, to have many different words for the same thing. Rather, to have many different words for many slightly different things, to allow us to distinguish between subtly different types of snow. The anti-vocabulary low-brows (that we encounter too often in English also) never understand this point. You deploy an adjective falling outside their ken. “Querulous”, say. They demand a definition. After several mis-hits, you eventually degrade the ‘granularity’ of the picture, until you arrive at a word they know: “grumpy”. With an irritation born of recalcitrance, they spit out: “Well, why didn’t you just say grumpy?”

    1. solberg73 Post author

      I often muse on whether I’d be half the man I think I am without your input, Duncan.And thanks from the hart, deer reader.
      I will say that, as a mid-grade intellectual, I always distinguish between ‘ Querulous’ and ‘grumpy’, although, in this backwater enviorns, ‘pissed’ has to cover both.
      My post actually attempts to grapple with an extreme example of what you describe, where the ‘national character’ (read ‘endemic psychosis’) can grasp no width on the spectrum between ‘upset’ and ‘enraged’. Luckily, decades of ‘self-help’ have given me the personal tools to see and ‘feel’ the difference. And to look inside for the causes of ‘grumpiness’ first (Was it the hot-sauce on that pita?’)
      Can’t help but think about Van Gogh: Elton John sang , I think, (imperfect memory) ‘You were too beautiful for a world like this.’) My 24/7 Israeli life, sadly. Looking for the right knife for the right ear as we speak…

      1. somewittyhandle

        In yet another bizarre parallel between us: I have frequently, over the years, for some strange reason confused Elton John /Bernie Taupin’s “Candle In the Wind” (about Marylin Monroe, I think) with Don McLean’s “Starry Starry Night” (about finger-paint Vinny). Are you doing the same?

  3. solberg73 Post author

    Yes, another parallel (for which all of them I’m secretly tickled) Twin studies have shown the phenom to be well-beyond mere anectodal., (Oops,’ anecdotal’) Actually, my over-killed mind has Van Gogh singing about sad Elton, y’know, the guy who left the pie out in the rain then lost the recipe. Or the receipt?

    Duncan, meet ‘post FCL’. Yes, feigning cultural literacy was so 2010. And yeah, everybody knows ‘you can look it up’ in seconds. But real men like us need to bravely present ourselves ‘as found; living, breathing, flawed human memories included. On the stupid net where no one’s quite sure whether you are, in fact, a dog, the odd primal ‘woof” is a refreshing spark.

  4. eleanorio

    I’m a little late to the party here. I’ve been away basking in sunshine and insect bites for a week and getting caught up finally. French has multi-use words, the most obvious one being serviette which can mean napkin, towel or briefcase. Take your pick.

    1. solberg73 Post author

      Welcome back… to the freezer?, El. My nemesis word here is worse than dual-use, it’s more like, ‘cain’t say one without the other.
      Of course in French, a lady can’t ‘make pretty’ in the bath without going to her ‘toilette’ sp?, right? Thinking ‘Went to the bathroom to comb my hair; yep it always gives me the runs.’


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