Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the great reviver of the Hebrew language, coined a word for bicycle – ofanaim. But he didn't come up with a word for a motorcycle. This was left to his son Itamar, who filled in the lexical gap two decades later.
Thus it was Ben-Yehuda the Younger who came up with of-a-no-A in 1931, in an article appearing in his newspaper Doar Hayom (“Daily Mail”).
The article described the Prince of Wales visiting Buenos Aires. The prince, according to the article, appeared in a motorcycle suit - kha-li-fat of-a-no-A.
A few months later the same paper mentioned the ofanoa again, in an article actually describing motorcycles. According to this article a group of motorcyclists belonging to the Zionist labor movement’s sports association Hapoel arrived in Haifa after a tour in Europe. They entered British Mandate Palestine from Lebanon through the Rosh Hanikra border, says the article. A reception was held for them in Haifa, after which the group rode on to Tel Aviv.
The word itself - ofanoa - is a concatenation of two words: the Biblical Hebrew word o-FUN (wheel) and no-A (moving). Literally the word means "moving wheel".
A motorcycle rider is an of-no-AN, which is the word ofanoa with the suffix usually used for professions -“an”. Apparently, the word first appeared in print in 1938, in the Hebrew daily newspaper “Davar” in an article about a French motorcycle racer.
A word had been sorely needed. Not only is the Middle Eastern climate ideal for riding: it also solves that perennial problem in modern Israel – finding parking. But do note, ye ofnoanim, that appearances to the contrary, it's illegal to park on the sidewalk.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now