Word of the Day / Mahazemer מַחֲזֶמֶר

Hebrew tends to take two words and meld into one. In this case, mahazeh for "play" and zemer for "song" merged to create the musical.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

I love when the Hebrew language takes two words and brings them together into one combination word, or portmanteau (known in Hebrew as “helkhem”). Take the word for musical. The word itself is a combination of the word for a play, “mahazeh,” and “zemer,” meaning song or singing. Put them together and you’ve got a “mahazemer,” a word that flows so euphoniously and so precisely captures the intended meaning that it deserves its own standing ovation.

As for the actual events, their names tend to translate just as picturesquely, like "Gvirti Hanaava" (“My Fair Lady”) and "Opera Begrush" ("The Threepenny Opera")

Another example of an elegant portmanteau is the cable car. In the English version, each word retains its own discrete form, but the Hebrew version combines two concepts to form a whole new word, pronounced either ra-KE-vel or rakh-BAHL, but either way representing a high-flying medley of "rakevet" (train) and "ca-bel" (cable).

An Israeli production of Cabaret.Credit: Alon Ron

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