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Weird, wacky, wonderful (Hebrew) words: I'm already (כְּבָר) lying to you...

Running out to the car to get something?  Just popping out to the makolet?
Just let folks know you'll be right back... like by saying you'll be right back.

Not in Hebrew.  In Hebrew, you don't say, "I'll be right back."

(Okay, you can, before everybody rushes in to correct me -- there IS an expression, אני תכף חוזר / ani techef chozer / "I will immediately return," or תכף אשוב / techef ashuv / which literally means this very thing. But I would argue that few people use these expressions in real life, just write them on signs in shop windows.)

Instead, usually, you say, אני כבר חוזר / ani kvar chozeir / "I'm already on my way back."
Even while you're turning around and walking the other way.

This expression has been tickling my

funny bone for a while.
My favourite version is אני כבר בא / ani kvar ba / "I'm already coming."

Because people say it davka (specifically) when they're NOT coming.  When they're busy doing something else or they're on the phone or simply can't be bothered coming to see what it is that you need.

They are literally lying to you as they say it.

In English, you say, "I'm coming," or "I'll be right there."
In Hebrew, you lie to a person's face -- except not to their face, because you're not there, and you say, "I'm already coming."

As you stand still doing something completely else.

כבר / kvar is a bit of a busy word anyway.  As mentioned, it means "already."
But because of the way Hebrew works, the word has logically extended its meaning to also mean "anymore."

If you want to tell someone you're not a baby anymore, you say, אני כבר לא תינוק / ani kvar lo tinok / "I'm already not a baby."

If you call someone about an apartment, they can tell you, כבר לא רלוונטי / kvar lo relevanti / "It's already irrelevant," meaning they've rented it already.

The word כבר / kvar has proven so useful in these roles that it has taken on, to some extent, the kind of general sound-without-meaning conversation filler used for emphasis that is represented by the Yiddish word "takkeh", the English word "like," and even the Hebrew word בעצם / be'etzem, which means "actually," but again, can mean basically any kind of emphasis.

So you get a classic Israeli phrase like נו כבר / nu, kvar, which means, "come on already," kind of.

Or this less classic phrase that's probably been translated from English and given a uniquely Israeli spin:
אני כבר אנוח בקבר / ani kvar anuach bakever / "I'll rest already in the grave."

image© Knuckles317 via Deviantart

(“I’ll rest in my grave.”)

(This phrase, by the way, reflects another Israeli weirdity, a unique and delightful sensitivity of language that in many cases where we'd say "my" in English, in Hebrew you simply don't have to.  It's assumed that you won't be lying in anyone else's grave.  Similarly, you don't have to say "my stomach hurts," because presumably nobody else's stomach is going to hurt YOU.)

Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, כבר / kvar really does just mean "already."
Like in this song, awkwardly English-named “The life is in front of you.”  Which I didn’t enjoy perhaps for its similarity to the stuff my neighbour wails out his upstairs window for the whole neighbourhood to enjoy late into the evening.

In this love song, the singer croons / wails,
אל תכבידי עם הדמעות, הוא כבר הלך לאחרות

Al tachbidi im d’maot, hu kvar halach le’acherot
"Don't bother with tears, he's already chasing other girls."


How romantic.

And finally, just as I was wrapping up this post, thinking I כבר / kvar / already knew everything about the word... guess what?  I discovered another expression that's even more delightful than anything else I've already mentioned.

You'll be glad you read all the way to the end, seriously.

The expression is אם כבר אז כבר / im kvar, az kvar / literally, "if already, then already."
In English, this is equivalent to the kind of obscure expression, "Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb," or its less kosher equivalent, "going whole hog."  Meaning, you're already doing something -- may as well go all in.
(more on this expression here)

And actually, it seems like Israelis may be thinking of this expression, at least a little bit, when they tell you, אני כבר בא / ani kvar ba / I'm coming. 

Because why else would they just stand there and fiddle with their phone and do everything possible EXCEPT pay attention to you?  They really do intend to show up eventually.  But while they're dissing you and ignoring you, they may as well go whole hog and SERIOUSLY diss you and ignore you.

Im kvar, az kvar.

Like my blog and how I almost never write anything here these days. 
Nu, kvar?

I'm already writing my next post.  At least -- in my mind.

Share your favourite manglings of the English or Hebrew languages in the comments below!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה




  1. Every society/culture has its linguistic oddities.

    1. For sure! I just love sharing these, and I hope anyone who's new to an English-speaking culture will find a way to share the oddities of English that we take for granted... :-)


I'd love to hear what you have to say.