Wednesday 15 May 2013

Yok

New Hebrew word, courtesy Ha'Aretz via Aurelio: yok.
Good for G. Phiri, because one of the meanings is "no way."
With a long history, dating back to Ottoman times and having to do with, well, Malta.

Here's the piece:
Word of the Day / Yok
A handy term to cut someone short may have gotten its start
with the hapless Ottoman navy.

By Ruth Schuster | May.13, 2013 | 12:04 PM | HaAretz online
You're just starting to learn some basic street Hebrew and feel all warm and fuzzy for
realizing that "nudnik" in Hebrew really does mean nudnik. You share your delight at your
budding linguistic talent with some Israeli sitting next to you on the bus, and he mutters:
"You spik Hebrew? Yok."
"Yuck?" you wonder, hurt. "Why would he say that?"
But he didn't. He said yok, so you might as well nurse your grievance. The word has a
variety of meanings:
Sarcastically – "No way." (You? Learn Hebrew? Sure you will.)
Straightforwardly – "Nope." ("Did you find that rare trilobite you wanted at the fossil
exhibition, Dad?" "Yok.")
Straightforwardly II – "It'll never happen." ("Can you go out skipping in the flower-studded hills of spring and spot a wild boar?" I asked a tour guide. "Yok.")
Unhelpfully – "There's no such thing," even when it's staring you right in the face. ("Honey, a wild boar just shrank the kids." "I didn't see it." "It was standing on your chest." "Yok.")
Translated into Yiddish – gurnisht.
Where did it come from? One theory is that yok originated, of all places, in the Ottoman
Empire, whose armada failed to conquer the doughty island of Malta. This was 1565, or
1645 according to other accounts, but in any case well before satellite imaging technology, which would have shown the island very clearly.
One version says the map got dirty and the island disappeared on it. Another is that the
admirals took a stab but failed. Whatever the case, the admirals reportedly sent a message
back to Sultan Ibrahim: "Malta yok." Meaning "Malta isn't there." No Malta, no problem.
Yok.
... that's George Phiri, not 'yok'




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