A sisma is what you type in when you check your email or your online bank statement. In this context, the meaning is “password,” said to derive from the Greek “syssemon,” meaning “signal,” and to be related (through the Greek) to the Hebrew word “siman,” meaning “sign.”
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In addition to signaling whether one is friend or foe, or the rightful owner of a given email account, “sisma” is also used to mean “slogan,” as in advertising slogans or the campaign slogans that Israeli contenders are just beginning to come out with, even as electioneering has died down in the United States.
Now that Barack Obama has won a second term, the Facebook page of the youth wing of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut party, a Labor Party breakaway, is attempting to draw a parallel between Barack the president and Barak the defense minister.
One of two rather cringe-worthy ads shows a face split down the middle -- half Obama’s and half Barak’s -- on the background of an Israeli flag, below the Hebrew sisma: “One Barak [Obama’s first name and Barak’s last are spelled the same in Hebrew] has already won.”
The second ad is in English, and so has to has to contend with the awkward fact that the two leaders spell their shared name differently in that language. It shows Obama with his arm around Barak, below the title “The Bara(c)ks.” A sisma borrowed from Obama’s campaign, and that of any U.S. president seeking a second term -- “4 more years!” -- is emblazoned across their chests, like a Miss America sash for two.
For previous Word of the Day columns, click here. To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.