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Apr 18, 2012

how (and why) to say "to dial" in Hebrew

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As language develops, words sometimes depart from their original meaning to take on a similar but new meaning.

Take, for example, the English verb to dial meant something else to do with the word day in its original Latin, but today its main meaning is to press numbers on a keypad. 

Likewise, the Hebrew word for to dial - לְחַיֵּג (leh-khah-YEG) - comes from the root ח.ו.ג (kh.w.g), which has to do with circles. This root appears in the children's song, עוּגָה עוּגָה עוּגָה (OO-gah OO-gah OO-gah) - Cake, Cake, Cake, in the word נָחוּגָה (nah-KHOO-gah) - we shall go around (see a translation and transliteration as well as a video of the song).

What do circles have to do with dialing? You may recall a predecessor of the iPhone, the rotary phone, which had a round dial, as depicted here:

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