If I were to order a shirt from a catalog and discover when it arrives that it appears to have been made for a miniature elf, that shirt is katan alay ("small on me"). And if I were to dismiss the whole incident as nothing but a minor nuisance, I could use the same phrase to describe my calm attitude of the situation. Instead of getting angry, I would shrug and say katan alay (kah-TAHN ah-LAHY).
When used figuratively, that phrase can mean "no big deal" or that something is too minor for me to be concerned with.
A 2011 article stating that basketball player Sylven Landesberg is good enough for the NBA was headlined "Maccabi Tel Aviv? Katan alav," meaning that he should be reaching for greater heights because an Israeli team is "small on him."
The phrase can sometimes be used in an almost competitive way to mean "that's nothing," as in, "So your twins both have a stomach bug at the same time? Katan alay! My triplets are experts at synchronized vomiting and use each other for target practice!"
To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.
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