Word of the Day / Nafal Bapah

Falling for a scam can feel a lot like ending up at the bottom of a dumpster.

The Hebrew Internet is full of advice on ways to avoid falling into the pah [PAHKH], a word that usually refers to a garbage can: "How not to fall into the Microsoft pah," "How not to fall into the pah of Internet fraud," "How not to fall into the pah when buying a car."

That's because when the word pah is part of the idiomatic phrase nafal bapah, which literally means "fell into the garbage," the word "trash" mutates into "trap" (which usually translates into malkodet), as in falling into the trap of believing that exiled Nigerian princes will wire you a million dollars if only you send them some dough first.

Sometimes, though, people really do fall into garbage cans, as with a Kiryat Malakhi man who dumpster dived to retrieve the tefillin he accidentally tossed in, along with a garbage bag, in the summer of 2009, according to an article on the Haredi website Behadrei Hadarim. He didn't realize how deep the dumpster was and had to be extricated by a rescue crew after another resident went to throw out his trash and heard someone knocking from the inside. The headline of the article was, naturally, "Nafal bapah."

The great thing about the idiom is that falling prey to a scam really can make people feel like they've just spent some time in a deep, stinky trash can in the middle of the stench-intensifying summer; not only are they covered in filth, but they may well be embarrassed to tell people where they've just been.