Word of the Day / Gam Vegam: Israelis Like Their This and That

This phrase literally means 'also and also'; Yair Lapid, whom some saw as an also-ran, has been known to use it.

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Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid posted an essay on his blog this year that began, “We are gam vegam” (GAHM ve-GAHM). The literal English translation? “We are also and also.”

Lapid went on to explain some of these middle-of-the-road alsos, in what reads like one of the newspaper columns on which he built the media career that recently morphed into a political one.

“We also [gam] love the country and are also [gam] terribly angry at it; we gam think we can’t keep going this way and gam know that we have no choice,” he wrote. “Gam for the IDF to be the strongest army in the Middle East, and gam cut the defense budget, or at least they shouldn’t retire at 45, because social workers are also important and they shouldn’t live below the poverty line.”

Gam vegam, then, means “both this and that.” It works as a phrase – “also this and also that,” with the “this” and “that” implied rather than spelled out – only because Hebrew syntax places “also” before the first item on the list as well as the second.

Shortly after Lapid published his blog post and not long after Margaret Thatcher’s death, business writer Shay Niv got in a dig at the gam vegam post in a column criticizing Lapid as finance minister and praising the Nordic model of welfare states with highly developed economies.

“For [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, Lapid and their Thatcherite friends, it’s convenient to depict the world as though it is divided into Thatcher’s Britain and the Greece of today,” wrote Niv. “But they forget to tell us that there’s another world, a different economy… Under this model, you pay more taxes but you get a lot more from the state. In Netanyahu and Lapid’s model, they’re gam raising taxes and gam cutting services. Because ‘we are gam vegam.’”

But Israelis belittle Lapid at their peril. Before his party won big in the national election, some dismissed him as an also-ran. Today he is also the head of the second-largest political faction in the Knesset and also the finance minister. Now he’s just gotta hope he doesn’t, ahem, gam up the works.

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.

An Iron Dome battery. Israel can't 'gam' cut the defense budget and 'gam' have the strongest army.Credit: Reuters

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