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Rude words you’ll never learn in Ulpan

image Naomi Rivka, this morning:  “know how you say ‘burp’ in Hebrew?  ‘Grapes!’”

(Hmm… the same as in Yiddish - “greps”)

Meanwhile, Gavriel Zev was all excited one day recently, coming home from gan, to ask me, “what’s a plitzah?”  Well, now we all know:  it comes from the word lehaplitz /  לְהַפְלִיץ, and it means “fart.”

There is a world of words like this out there and I admit, I’m jealous of the kids, because these are words that they’d never teach us in ulpan.

And Google Translate doesn’t always give you the right words, either, even if you look them up.  For “burp,” it says gihuk / גִהוּק, but clearly, Naomi Rivka heard the other term from somebody.  I have also seen this word for hiccup, though Google Translate offers a similar one:  shihuk /  שִׁהוּק.

image In Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing Up Bébé, about raising a child in France, she mentions her daughter’s excitement at discovering the “starter” swear words that French children are permitted to use.  Her main example is, “caca boudin,” or “poo(p) sausage,” an expression mainly used by children, that is considered cute and not at all obscene (sort of like the word sheet / שִׁיט here, which comes from the English but does not share the same negative connotations).

What strikes me again is that the author could have lived in France for years and never heard this term, because – again – this is the sort of thing they just don’t teach in language classes.

There are so many of these words that I don’t know!

In ulpan, we sort of scratched the surface when we talked about health and medical conditions – learning the proper names for bodily functions and even (gasp!) the word diarrhea (sheelshool / שִׁלשׁוּל).  That was as wild and crazy as it got. 

They didn’t even teach us the word for vomit  (lehakee / לְהַקִיא), let alone any of its seemingly dozens of “fun” English synonyms.

I suppose the thinking is that you’ll learn as you go – but they don’t do that with other topics, like the bank or the post office.  I may never need to receive or send a registered letter (michtav rashoom / מִכתָב רָשׁוּם), but they darn well made sure I know how to say it, order one, receive one, inside, outside, backwards, forwards… in my sleep.

image But “Fart Police”???  Sheesh.  These are the words, it turns out, that I really need to know.

If only they brought in a seven-year-old to guest-teach in ulpan, things would be very, very different.

So what’s your favourite bodily-function word in Hebrew?  (And did you learn it in ulpan?  I’m guessing no!)


  1. Ha! Maybe they taught you in ulpan that to drop a letter into a mailbox is l'shalshel michtav - there are other meanings to shilshul besides diahrrea - but they bring up interesting mental pictures, none-the-less.

    1. Funny... no, they didn't. My teacher in Ulpan Alef was particularly delicate about such things, and didn't even let us use the first person when discussing ailments. We got through the unit as quickly as possible, but not before she managed to pick up a cold. :-)

  2. I gave birth with minimal Hebrew and survived.

    1. I think giving birth is one of those things that transcends language. :-)

  3. Don't you know that the first things people try to learn when learning a new language are the dirty words?

    1. @sheldan - so what you're suggesting is that since I've been here for 7 months, I'm actually kind of slow to learn these things? Sorry to disappoint, in that case! We were a bit busy, in our first 7 months of aliyah, to sit around with the dictionary looking for rude words. :-D


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