Word of the Day / Legalgel Eynayim לגלגל עיניים

If the kid rolls his eyes at you, he's exasperated – or in Israel, he might be feigning innocence.

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If you're talking to someone and the person rolls his or her eyes at you, they're probably expressing irritation, exasperation or disbelief. Teenagers are particularly notorious for committing this transgression of etiquette. In a certain context, say in serious or sarcastic reaction to bad news, one who rolls his eyes heavenward can be presumed to be seeking divine assistance of some kind, or just mutely asking "Why?"

When you hear about people rolling their eyes in Hebrew – the infinitive phrase is legalgel eynayim (le-gal-GHEL ey-NA-yeem), literally meaning "to roll eyes" – they might indeed be implicitly asking "We're not gonna go through this AGAIN, are we?"

But figurative eye rolling in Israel can also mean something entirely different.

That's because in Hebrew, eye rolling often refers to playing dumb, feigning innocence or behaving sanctimoniously. Note that this doesn't refer to people who are genuinely naive; there is generally an element of hypocrisy involved here.

In an online forum complaining about an election in which unspecified "terrible and ugly things" took place, one Hebrew commenter called on the candidates "to stop playing dumb, stop rolling your eyes, take public responsibility and apologize publicly and privately!"

And a commenter on a blog post titled "The IDF has become a punching bag" wrote in Hebrew that she has already been condemned in the virtual world as a back-stabbing anti-Semite, and asked: "How would this holy and sanctimonious congregation respond if they had to live under the rule of occupation?" Using the noun phrase for eye rolling, she added: "What gilgul eynayim. What hypocrisy."

If you've had enough of this sort of discourse, you are, of course, free to roll your eyes and click the mouse.

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.

Illustration: A girl rolls her eyesCredit: Dreamstime
Michelle Obama famously rolled her eyes at this momentous event. (See video.)Credit: AP

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