Word of the Day / Hamarmoret

Heading to the pharmacy after a long night of drinking? Now you'll know how to describe what's ailing you, in pure Hebrew.

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Israel is known for its delicious breakfasts, full of fresh, locally produced fruit, vegetables and cheeses. It is also known for Teva, an icon of the pharmaceutical industry, which produces paracetamol-based aspirin (among many other drugs). Combined, these two things may be the perfect remedy for a side-effect of Tel Aviv's renowned non-stop nightlife: "hamarmoret."

When that pounding headache and general fatigue strike after a long night of drinking and dancing, most Israelis will borrow the common English word for such malaise and declare, "yesh li hangover" ("I have a hangover").

Yet this was unacceptable to the folks over at the Academy of the Hebrew Language, who have busy trying to play catch up with a language that has remained frozen in Biblical times, while preserving its integrity. They felt the need to find a pure Hebrew term for an arguably impure phenomenon—and one has to respect them for coining hip words for less-than-ladylike behavior.

They settled on the root H-M-R -- citing the Biblical use of the word "hamar" for wine, and the use of the same root to describe a biblical "upheaval of the intestines" (Lamentations 1:20) -- for the Israeli cousin of "hangover." The root was then employed in a fashion similar to two existing Hebrew words used to describe bodily sensations: "skharkhoret" and "tsmarmoret" (dizziness and shivering, respectively).

The moral here is clear: Even when you're misbehaving, you should be doing it in grammatically correct Hebrew. I myself am still waiting with bated breath for the Hebrew bon mot for "walk of shame."

Shoshana Kordova is on leave. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

Enough fuel for a serious hamarmoret.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

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