Word of the Day / Lesandel: Quaking in Your Denver Boots

What does it mean to 'sandalize' the government?

This week Jonathan Lis wrote in Haaretz that a bill making it illegal for the government to negotiate the future of Jerusalem unless it first wins the approval of two-thirds of the Knesset would lesandel (le-sahn-DEL) efforts to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Sandal (sahn-DAHL) means “sandal” (no surprise there) and lesandel (literally “to sandalize,” if that were a word) is the infinitive form.

So how did lesandel come to mean to hinder or impede someone or something? And what does that have to do with summertime footwear?

The key lies in realizing that sometimes a sandal is not a sandal. Sometimes it’s a boot. A Denver boot, to be exact.

In English, the wheel clamps that the authorities can put on a car to keep it in place and compel its owner to pay outstanding traffic fines, or punish its owner for parking illegally, are named after the Colorado city that was one of the first places in the United States to use the device. 

In Hebrew, lesandel means to clamp a car with such a wheel, but it also means to figuratively tie someone’s hands or make it difficult for a person to maneuver, as though he or she had been clamped with a Denver boot.

For what it's worth, having adapted the word, Israelis then went on to eschew the product. There was a time when Israeli authorities regularly crushed miscreant parkers under their (Denver) boots, but the wheel clamp is rarely used in Israel now. The tow truck, on the other hand, has yet to be given the boot.

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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