Word of the Day / Chupchik צ'וּפְּצִ'יק

If you need a catchall phrase, a one-word-fits-all solution, this one will serve you just fine.

If you've been in the market for a handy, versatile word that can refer to a wide variety of objects, look no further than chupchik. This word, pronounced CHOOP cheek, is defined as a protrusion or protuberance but is often used to mean just about any small item or part of an item whose name has escaped you or that doesn't necessarily have a name.

Looking to replace the knob on your toaster or that part of the bolt that keeps your door bolted? The word you need is chupchik, Hebrew's answer to "thingie" or "whatchamacallit".

In Israel the word is famously associated with a skit by the comedy trio Hagashash Hahiver, who were making fun of Hebrew's revivication and the ensuing common ignorance of everyday words - in this case, the spout of a kettle. "What's the chupchik of a kettle called?" trio member Yisrael Poliakov asked a Hebrew language expert as part of the skit. ("Zarbuvit," he was told.)

Chupchik comes from the Russian word for "curly forelock," originally chubchik, according to the Hebrew etymology site Hasafa Haivrit.

Chupchik actually features two chupchiks in the word itself, in the form of the apostrophe that come after the letter tzadi (which makes a double appearance here) to turn it into the "ch" sound that features so prominently in sentences like "Chuck chowed down on Chinese food."

In this case, there is an actual Hebrew word for the magical protrusion that turns one sound into another (it's called a geresh), but just call it a chupchik and everyone will know exactly which thingamabob you mean.

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.

Haim Taragan
Moti Kimche