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Trivial pursuit? Humiliating Hebrew fail.


For most people, Shabbos is a time to relax after a crazy week. 

But not for my husband Akiva!  Not since I started challenging myself to read and translate the Hebrew trivia questions at the back of the weekend paper. 

I’m terribly bad at trivia, and Akiva isn’t much better, though he knows almost anything to do with movies.  So naturally, we go at it now every single week. 

I read the questions in Hebrew, translate them the best I can, and he attempts to answer.  Often, the questions are some obscure Israeli thing like “who is Moshav Kipnitzky named after?”  To which he’ll answer “Shmuli Kipnitzky,” which is never the right answer. 

There are almost always a couple of questions about soccer players, Israeli mayors, and obscure European countries.  When it’s a name or place I don’t know, which is often, I sound it out as best I can. 

Like this week, when I came across the question, “What is the capital of… “ and here, I had to sound it out.  ONTRIZ.  Okay, fine.  “What is the capital of Ontriz?”


Gamely, Akiva stepped up and ventured his answer.  Some made-up city name appropriate for an obscure region like Ontriz.  Nope, I said, flipping to the answer:  Toronato.


And off we went to the next question, while Naomi Rivka, aged 9, kept right on skipping rope in the bedroom and shouting something at us that we were trying to ignore.  Until we couldn’t ignore her anymore, because she was VERY loud and annoying.  “Ontario!  Ontario!”

I looked again.

Indeed… she was right.  It didn’t say Ontriz.  It said Ontario, as in the place I lived in Canada for more than 40 years.  The province where I married my husband and three of my children were born.  And the answer was not Toronato but Toronto… the city where we made our home together for a decade.

Go figure.

Diligently, we kept right on going, right past this humiliation, failing to answer questions about the mammal family to which otters belong (weasel?), which organization gives out the Azrieli prize for urban planning (The Council for a Nice Israel?), and who played Nicola Tesla in the movie “Luxury.” 

That last answer was David Bowie, but in English, the movie was called “Prestige.”  Film titles translate very poorly, like the movie listing that made me scratch my head, wondering who’d go see a movie called “Star of the monkeys.”  Ohhh… Planet of the Apes?  Now that, I’d go see in a heartbeat.

Somehow, week after week, being very, very bad at trivia makes me feel okay about being very, very bad at Hebrew.

I highly recommend it, as long as you don’t mind the occasional humiliation.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


  1. This post is included in the latest Shiloh Musings: Chanukah 5775 Havel Havelim!

    Please visit it, read, comment and share the posts and the blog carnival, thanks.

  2. Coming from HH. I remember in Ulpan struggling over a Hebrew word, until I realized that it was "New York"!

    1. Ha! Glad it's not just me. It's humiliating because I do recognize when a word is foreign, and I really was doing my best to pronounce this one right...


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