Word of the Day / Pa’am Shlishit Glida

Should you run into a friend frequently within a short time span, you could employ this phrase for a good laugh. Or, if you wanted to be German about it, you could insist she pay up with an ice cream.

The third time may be a charm in English, but in Hebrew it’s more than lucky; it’s cause for ice cream.

An urban legend circulating around the Hebrew Web promotes the folk etymology that the Hebrew phrase “pa’am shlishit glida,” meaning “third time ice cream,” is a distortion of the English phrase “third time I scream.” Though this may sound plausible to some Israelis, most of you have doubtless spotted the large cone-shaped hole in this story: this ostensibly well-known phrase is apparently shouted at a pitch that only those promulgating this theory can hear.

Perhaps this is complicated by the fact that English does indeed have the phrase “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” (which was brilliantly ripped off by Gary Larson in a Far Side comic about a failed marketing ploy: a musical truck bearing the slogan “I cuss, you cuss, we all cuss for asparagus!”).

An alternative theory is that “pa’am shlishit glida,” which Israelis say to each other after running into the same person a couple of times within a short period, reached these shores via immigrants from Germany, where people say "Das nachstes Malgibst du mir einen aus," meaning “Next time it’s your turn to buy me a drink.” The idea is that German beer has turned into Israeli ice cream and “next time” has become “third time.”

One major difference between the way Israelis and Germans use the similar phrases is, according to my German-speaking source, that in Germany they actually mean it; if the two people who repeatedly bump into each other are friends who anyway go out for a drink on occasion, then the next time they do so, the one whose turn it is really does pick up the tab. In Israel, on the other hand, we talk the talk but we don’t really walk the chocolate praline walk.

Dan Peretz