Word of the Day Nayedet

Cop cars, like cell phones and laptop computers, are products of a modern age, but in Hebrew, their names have roots that go all way back to the Talmud.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Although mobile devices are generally thought of as emblems of our particular age, the Hebrew language essentially views police cruisers and apartment buildings as forerunners to the cell phone and laptop.

Israelis often refer to a cell phone as a Pelephone, the name of the first Israeli cell phone provider. But there is also a generic name for it that people use: “nayad,” meaning “mobile.” Similarly, laptops are “mahshevim nayadim,” or “mobile computers.”

And a cop car? That’s a “nayedet” (“patrol car”), or “nayedet mishtara” (“police patrol car”) if you want to be specific, a term that uses the feminine form of “nayad.” The word just helps make it clear, I guess, that if the police are adhering to American stereotypes and eating lots of doughnuts on the job, they are at least doing it while on the move.

The same word can be used if, for instance, someone is trying to decide how to explain the best way to get to a particular venue. “At nayedet?” the person might ask first (if you’re female, that is; if you’re male, it would be “Ata nayad?”). Although this literally means “Are you mobile?” or “Can you get around easily?” in this context it’s actually another way of asking “Do you have a car?”

The word for mobility is used in the Talmud as well, and appears in an Aramaic acronym referring to something that usually stays pretty still: real estate, which is known in Israel to this day as “nadlan.” That stands for the Aramaic words “nihsei d’lo nayadei,” meaning “immovable [or “non-mobile”] property.”

Guess when the Talmud was compiled they weren’t exactly taking into account the earthquake-preparedness drill conducted in Israel this week. Maybe we’ll need to coin a new word if a major earthquake ever does hit these parts, ‘cause what do you call immovable property that moves'?

A police car.Credit: Moti Kimche

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