Word of the Day / Jook: When Dad Has a Cockroach in His Head

The Hebrew word for cockroach has become a colloquial way of referring to small things, like the one-shekel coin, a microchip - or an obsessive idea stuck in your head.

Shoshana Kordova
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'Jook' - cockroachCredit: Dreamstime
Shoshana Kordova

A 13-year-old girl has a problem: Her parents have cockroaches in their heads.

“My parents got a new jook in their head,” she writes on an online advice forum. “They’re considering moving to a private house in the north. We’ve been living in the center of the country almost since I was born, and I’ll never get used to a change like that, if it goes through. I explained it to them but they don’t understand me. How can I convince them to stay here in the center?”

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Jook is primarily a way of saying “cockroach,” coming to Hebrew from the Russian, possibly via Yiddish. Though cockroaches – more formally called tikan or makak in the singular – are scariest when they’re huge, jook has become a colloquial way of referring to small things, like the and a microchip.

As with the parents who want to move to the north, jook is also part of phrases like nikhnas lo jook larosh – “he got a jook in his head,” meaning he got a certain idea into his head or he’s kind of obsessed with something.

Just don’t get a jook in your head about finding a jukebox in Israel, because if you do, it just may contain a whole lot more legs than you expected.

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