You know all those scenarios in the '90s hit "Ironic" that people love to bash Canadian singer Alanis Morissette for because they’re not really ironic? Well, Middle Easterners have another word for that rather unlikely moment, described in the song, when you’re faced with 10,000 spoons and all you need is a knife: “basa” (BA-sa).
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Israelis often use this word, which the Hebrew borrowed from the Arabic, in the phrase “Eizeh basa,” which translates roughly into “What a bummer,” except without sounding like it came from the mouth of a leftover hippie who hasn’t quite kept up with the lingo. The Hebraicized adjective form, “meva’es,” similar to “annoying” in the sense of being frustrating or disappointing, also makes an appearance frequently.
The original Arabic can connote a metaphorical sense of something being spoiled or a mood of despair, according to the Hebrew language website Hasafa Haivrit. But in Hebrew at least, a basa is often an everyday irritant. One Hebrew Facebook status complained that “there’s nothing more meva’es” than putting cereal in a bowl and then discovering there’s no more milk.
And if an Israeli college student accidentally left a favorite maroon sweater on campus, a friend’s response may well have been “Eizeh basa!” Type that into Google in Hebrew and you just might reverse your fortune, since that’s the name of a virtual lost-and-found that helps college students across the country find the belongings they left behind. Unfortunately, there’s little the website can do if it’s raining on your wedding day or you get a free ride when you’ve already paid. As Alanis Morissette never sang, isn’t it a basa?