Flat tire
Puncher, one of many car-related words left over from the British during the Mandatory period. Photo by Yoav Kaveh
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Let’s say you’re driving down an Israeli highway and suddenly you hear that telltale thump-thump-thumping that signals a flat tire. Don’t scratch your head trying to figure out the Hebrew word for it if you need to ask for help; look no further than our very own “puncture,” one of many car-related words introduced by the British during the Mandatory period. Of course, you might not recognize its British derivation from the way Israelis pronounce the word: “PAHN-chehr” (think “puncher” in an Israeli accent).

Even if you’re vehicle-free you can still get a “puncher,” which is also a slang word for a sudden setback, for when something goes wrong unexpectedly (much like getting a flat tire, not coincidentally). One blog commenter complained that every time he gets motivated enough to start a project, “something happens to me… some unplanned financial puncher.” Sometimes a puncher can have long-lasting effects, like the kind referred to by a woman who wrote on an Israeli website devoted to pregnancy and childbirth that she’s satisfied with the two sons she already has but would be fine with a third child “if some puncher happens.” If it does, let’s just hope she doesn’t get a puncher of a different sort on the way to the hospital.