Word of the Day / Lehavriz

They may share a root, but the word for 'faucet' has nothing to do with this verb, which describes that terrible breach of etiquette, standing someone up for a meeting or date.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

What does a faucet have to do with cutting class or standing somebody up?

As appealing as the theory might sound, the origin of the word lehavriz (le-hahv-REEZ), meaning to fail to show up or to carry through on a commitment as planned or expected, has nothing to do with plumbers who leave you waiting in vain for them to fix your leaky berez, or faucet, writes Hebrew language maven Rubik Rosenthal.

Rosenthal traces the term to the Arabic spoken in North Africa, where he says a similar term, the transitive verb b'rez, means "slipped out of his reach." In Hebrew this became sam lo (or dafak lo) berez, or the one-word version, hivriz (heev-REEZ, from the infinitive lehavriz).

Whatever the derivation, the Israeli blogger who goes by the name Zroob wants all her readers to know that if ever she makes a plan to meet them, they had darn well better bother to show up. In a post entitled "The 10 rules for ditching (havraza)," she offers several pointers, like the only legitimate excuses for standing someone up: you've been injured or a close family member has died.

According to Ruth Almagor-Ramon, language adviser for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, who doesn't mention the North African angle, the term sam lo berez became widespread in Israel in the 1980s by way of the army. It primarily meant "disrupting the planned agenda," as the class-cutter disrupts the agenda of the teacher or the school, and the guy who blows off a meeting or a date disrupts that of the person left waiting. The word berez itself, she adds, comes from the Aramaic barza, which is used in the context of a hole in a barrel.

But still, how did we get from faucet to truant? Almagor-Ramon explains there are two opposing schools of thought, which, she says, makes sense given that a tap can be either open or closed. Some say it's the open faucet that gave rise to the expression, and that the force of a strong stream of water is what's messing everything up, while others say that the closed faucet is to blame, since it's not letting the water flow on its merry way.

"In my view, this two-way faucet and the havraza that stem from it represent the beauty and vitality of the new Hebrew," wrote Almagor-Ramon in a 2002 column in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz. "The story of the faucet is an example of a living and vigorous language whose foundations lie in ancient Hebrew and in which is embedded a heaping and impressive dose of new Israeliness."

If you leave someone hanging after making a date, you had better add this word to your vocabulary.Credit: Eyal Tueg

Click the alert icon to follow topics: