Talking the Talk, Part II
I was talking the talk. Thankfully, unlike some of my peers (e.g.the guy who started spinning around like a sevivon when he was commanded “TISTOVEV!”) I was able to understand most of the commands from the outset. My vocabulary was expanding (after two months in I already amassed a litany of curse words an Arabic Tupac would shep nachas from) but the hebrew I was acquiring wasn’t the one I was familiar with. It was one of unknown abbreviations, names, phrases, and expressions; I was re-learning a language I already knew, from scratch.
Army hebrew is everyday hebrew dipped in charif. It’s loud-er; It’s crude; You know those things you just want to say to someones face but don’t because social decency dictates otherwise? Say them.
And with the words comes an aggressiveness of character, an in-your-face way of being as if life is always bargaining in a shuk. So even though I was talking the talk I couldn’t yet walk the walk. I was still b’shock American Meir– Meir who requested things with: Do you think…? Is it possible…? Could I bother you?; who waited in line to put his bag under the bus; who first went to Shufresol without knowing that every cereal here is called Cornflakes:
Meir: tagidi, eifoh yesh dganei aruchot boker?
Random Israeli Ima: Cornflakes?
Meir: Eh, gam Cornflakes aval od sugim shel…
Random Israeli Ima: shel ma?
Meir: Ehhh, d’ganei aruchat boker…?
Random Israeli Ima: CORNFLAKES???
I needed some socially-approved Sabra-moves, and the following are two of countless learned-by-experiences that helped me start walking the walk.
Usage: No/Wrong. How dare u say or ask something so no/wrong. I’m not going to even make a verbalization.
First experienced: learning the radio
Yallah/Nu/B’kiztur: the radio uses two antennas- short and long.
Commander Raz: Meir, what are the two antennas for the radio?
Meir, in the most American accent possible: Short and Long.
Commander Raz: Tounge-click. That’s incorrect.
Meir: Uh no it’s not.
Commander Raz: tongue-click. Say it as it’s meant to be said: shooorrrrrghhhht v’ loooooooooong.
Oh, okay, right, so Short would be: shin, vav, resh resh resh resh resh resh resh resh, taf and Long: lamed, vav to the 13th power, nun, gimmel.
Meir: But that’s not how you say it!!!
Commander Raz: Tongue-click. Nu, say it like it’s supposed to be said.
There’s even a word for it: L’tzaktzek. And behhhhtaaaach I now mitzaktzek like a pro.
The MA ATA ________? / YA ________
Usage: When someone does something perceptively dumb and you want to let them know.
First Experienced: Stacking gear
Yallah/Nu/B’kitzur: Before you leave for the weekend you need to arrange all the gear (tents, mattresses, vests, bags etc.) in a tent to have it in one place. (Givati lacks buildings).
There I am shuttling between tents, mattresses hobbling over my shoulder, vests clinging for dear life under my forerarms, and amidst the chaos of getting-this-done-as-fast-as-possible-while-still-having-it-organized-enough-to-be-approved my shoe unties and I innocently kneel down to tie it. My eardrum then explodes, courtesy of a fellow soldier named Lidor.
“MA ATA CHOLEH NEFESH?!?! ATA CHOSEM LI ET KOL HA MAAVAR YA ROSH PAPAYA!!!”
Sooooo I dunno if being called a MENTAL PATIENT!!! is the most fitting reaction to my seemingly innocuous action. l mean, I guess you could say I was KIND OF blocking the aisle? But really, barely. Like I would have moved… if you would’ve um… asked. But more importantly, at 23 years old I got called a papaya head. Yep, a papaya head. I’m still not sure what a papaya head is, if Lidor’s really a fan of a soft experimental rock band from Costa Rica, or why he simply didn’t go with banana head.
It’s still funny for me to look back at this experience because the ma ata’s (what are you _____’s) and ya’s (you______) are such a familiar part of the language now. Name calling is childish, but it’s very much a part of army expression (even if you’re not a child). Be expected to be called at least one of these if you screw up in the army, or even if you don’t:
Ma ata _______?’s:
Choleh Nefesh? A mental patient?
Tambal? A fool?
Dafuk? F-d up?
Rosh Papaya- Papaya head
Shokist- Someone who has no idea what he’s doing or what’s going on.
Aaaaaaaaand of course, the most absurd name that only makes sense in an Israeli Military context because it would sound so utterly ridiculous anywhere else:
Ya Partzuf Saba- You Old Person Face!!!
If you find yourself in a dissfight, please do yourself a favor and don’t go with Partzuf Saba. Unless you’re having that dissfight in the Israeli Army. Then I highly recommend busting that one out.