Word of the Day / Lefasfes: To Miss, or Not to Miss

In Hebrew, you can miss the boat and the potty, but missing your mom is another issue (or word) altogether.

“Five technology events this week that you shouldn’t miss out on,” reads one recent Hebrew headline, while another blares, “Five spots in the Carmel market that must not be missed.”

I’m not sure what’s so appealing about the number five, but I can tell you that when these articles are talking about missing something (or not, as the case may be), the word they’re using is lefasfes (le-fas-FES, “to miss”).

Lefasfes is also the word that comes into play when you miss the bus. Just don’t use it if the reason you were going to take that bus is because you miss your mom (the infinitive form of that kind of missing is lehitgagea, which is used with the preposition el, or “to”).

When I became the parent of a toddler I learned that lefasfes also has another meaning: having accidents of the potty kind.

In English, someone who misses the toilet might have become a little too intimate with the bushes on a hard-core camping trip and can’t wait to come home, or could just be a guy who can’t shoot straight. But in Israel, when the preschool teacher tells you that your little boy fisfes (fees-FES) today or your daughter fisfesa (fees-fe-SA) – no direct object is needed, though the precise form of excretion is sometimes added for the purpose of clarification – you know that the laundry days of your past, when you had to schlep all those dirty clothes down the road to a machine that ate your coins, is one thing you won’t be missing.

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.

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