Word of the Day Matzav

Fans of 'Jersey Shore' may know The Situation as the character built solely of muscle and ego, but in Hebrew, the phrase has a bit more depth. Whether greeting a friend, describing your mood or delicately referencing the political conflict, you’ll find a situation waiting.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

If you want to ask your Israeli friend how it’s going or what’s up, you might say “ma hamatzav?” This literally means “what’s the situation?” but sounds much more colloquial in Hebrew.

If you ask that friend whether she has time to catch a movie with you, she might say, “yesh matzav.” On a literal level, that means “there is a situation,” but not in an anxious “Sir, we have a situation” kind of way; rather, it’s a positive phrase meaning “possibly” or “maybe.” If she can’t go, she might say “ein matzav” -- “there is no situation,” or in plain English: No way, José.

Just say “hamatzav” -- “the situation,” pronounced “hah-mah-TZAHV” -- without qualification or explanation, and you’re presumed to be using a euphemistic catchall for this country’s security-related afflictions: the bombs and the wars, the guns and the rockets.

Matzav” can also mean “condition” or “state,” as in “matzav hagalim” (wave conditions”) and “matzav ha’uma” (“state of the nation”).

If you’re a surfer and those wave conditions are just right, you might be in a good matzav ruah (ROO-akh), a phrase that means “mood” but whose literal translation is “state of spirit.” If the waves aren’t so great that day, you might be metzuvrah -- the colloquial adjectival contraction of the Hebrew for “mood” that means you’re in a bad mood, grumpy or out of sorts.

But before you decide the state of the nation on the basis of the condition of its waves, ask yourself: Might they be better tomorrow? Yesh matzav.

Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino from the popular reality-TV show 'Jersey Shore' flanked by other cast members.Credit: AP



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


מריאן ס' מריאן אומנות

The Artist Who Survived Auschwitz Thought Israel Was 'Worse Than the Concentration Camp'

הקלטות מעוז

Jewish Law Above All: Recordings Reveal Far-right MK's Plan to Turn Israel Into Theocracy

איתמר בן גביר

Why I’m Turning My Back on My Jewish Identity

Travelers looking at the Departures board at Ben Gurion Airport. The number of olim who later become yordim is unknown.

Down and Out: Why These New Immigrants Ended Up Leaving Israel

Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco as Mia and Lucia in "The White Lotus."

The Reality Behind ‘The White Lotus’ Sex Work Fantasy

The Mossad hit team in Dubai. Exposed by dozens of security cameras

This ‘Dystopian’ Cyber Firm Could Have Saved Mossad Assassins From Exposure