Word of the Day Basa

You have 10,000 spoons. You want a knife. What do you say?

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

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).

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?

Basa.Credit: Eyal Toueg
Alanis Morissette teaches the world about ironies.Credit: Reuters



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

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism