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Jun 14, 2010

how do you say "a funny" in Hebrew?


To laugh, in Modern Hebrew, is לִצְחוֹק (leets-KHOHK). It's the same word used for making fun. In that case, the appropriate preposition following לצחוק would be על (ahl) - on. For example, זֶה לֹא יָפֶה לִצְחוֹק עַל אֲנָשִׁים (zeh loh yah-FEH leets-KHOHK ahl ah-nah-SHEEM) - it's not nice to make fun of people.

That's the thing - prepositions don't translate well from one language to another. If you've seen the movie Borat (recommended for about 15% of the readership), perhaps you recall the main character saying something to the effect of "I make a laugh on him" (meaning, "I made fun of him"). Why does he use the word on? Why not use about? Well, that's because Sacha Baron Cohen - the film's Jewish creator and main actor - is translating from Hebrew... as opposed to Kazakh. 

Another famous (to some) movie character that has a rather peculiar usage of לצחוק, at least in English, is Splinter, the giant, wise rat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the live-action film, Splinter says "I made a funny" - which is akin to the Hebrew, צָחַקְתִּי (tsah-KHAHK-tee) - I made a joke.

The fact that Hebrew's usage has proliferated so among diverse cultures represented in Hollywood lends further proof that Hebrew is actually the mother of all tongues (okay, this argument isn't that compelling...).

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