Word of the Day / Hafukh: Boy, This Word Turns You Inside Out

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Want to make the Israeli version of a cappuccino at home? It’s easy: Just make a regular cup of coffee and knock it over. Now you’ve got cafe hafukh, literally “upside-down coffee.”

But that would be a pretty backward way of doing it. For those who’d rather not have to clean up that Amelia Bedelia-style mess, the secret to this milk-drenched staple of Israeli cafes – often referred to simply as hafukh, meaning “upside down,” “backward” or “reverse” – is, according to one recipe, to put in three times as much steamed milk as you would in a standard cappuccino.

Now place one cup of this popular Israeli hot drink on top of another and you’ve got hafukh al hafukh, the signature trend of the most hipster of cafes.

No, not really. Guess that would only happen on yom hafukh, or opposite day. I seem to be getting it all hafukh, so let’s start at the beginning, now that we’re nearing the end.

Hafukh al hafukh literally means “backward upon backward,” and those who find it similar to a double negative might think it actually means “forward.” But, in the spirit of hafukh al hafukh, it often just means hafukh – the opposite of what you would expect.

For instance, a former deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv-area town Givat Shmuel complained a few years ago that under a secular mayor there were no cultural events held at municipal facilities on Shabbat, while under a religious mayor there were. “It’s really hafukh al hafukh,” he said in an interview with Arutz Sheva.

Naturally, a double twist suits the phrase even better. A man dressing as a woman on Purim may get some laughs, but it’s just a costume; a man dressing as a woman while his wife or girlfriend dresses as a man is hafukh al hafukh.

And what about a man dressed as a woman who goes out for some upside-down coffee with the woman dressed as a man? Hmm, that’s a tough one, but I’m pretty sure it’s called a date.

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

Hafukh. It's not just coffee. Credit: Eyal Toueg

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