Word of the Day / Lehahlif Disket להחליף דיסקט

The risk of coining technology-based phrases is that they soon become anachronistic.

The problem with words and phrases that incorporate the latest technology is that soon enough, the new technology becomes old and instead of reflecting the current trend, the phrase becomes an anachronism that recalls something we used to do back in the day.

Take lehalfif disket (le-hakh-LEEF dees-KET), which literally means "to change the diskette" – you know, those things that used to be round and then became square and that people used to put into computers to access or save data. I'm sure at one point this phrase sounded like a hip way of saying "to change your tune," "to switch gears" or, less metaphorically, "to adopt a different mindset"; in Apple lingo it would be "Think different." Now, though, the Hebrew phrase seems almost quaint. A diskette? What's a diskette?

A Hebrew language blog called Ivrit Safa Kasha ("Hebrew is a Hard Language") notes that the obsolescent nature of the phrase extends not just to what floppy disks are but to what kind of data they used to store.

"The anachronism is not just because the use of diskettes is waning but also, and perhaps primarily, because of the association with the description of the action of changing a diskette," reads a post on the phrase. "At the time, the program that was stored on a single diskette could have been the computer's entire operating system, so the act of changing the diskette could have completely changed the way the computer behaves."

None of this means the phrase has ceased to be in use. In a TheMarker column this week on how bondholders ought to take over insolvent companies that owe them money, Eytan Avriel writes that the public and the institutional investors managing their funds "must change the diskette" – in other words, they need to stop negotiating with companies and start moving in on them.
After last month's election, one news site summed up Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman's response to the large number of seats won by Yesh Atid, which advocates compelling the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the army, by saying Lieberman "is calling on the Haredim to change the diskette." In that context, the phrase means that they need to get used to the idea that the status quo could become a thing of the past.

Whether the metaphorical changing of the diskette becomes a thing of the past as well is something only the future will tell.

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.