Word of the Day Busha V'herpa

Whether something is a crying shame or a singing one, just remember that it's not truly disgraceful unless you double the dose.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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At the end of the 9th season of Kohav Nolad (the Israeli version of 'American Idol,' above), one blogger wrote it was a crying shame that one of the contestants didn't win.
At the end of the 9th season of Kohav Nolad (the Israeli version of 'American Idol,' above), one blogger wrote it was a crying shame that one of the contestants didn't win.Credit: Hagi Fried
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Why use just one word, the Hebrew language asks, when you can use two words that mean the same thing to intensify the effect?

Want to demonstrate happiness? Sasson v'simha! (Joy and joy!) How about anguish? Oy v'avoy! (Woe and woe!) And as for today's topic, what better way to impute disgrace than to score a double whammy with busha v'herpa (shame and shame)?

Standing alone and presumably unabashed, busha (boo-SHA) makes an appearance in Ovadiah 1:10:"For the violence done to thy brother Jacob shame (busha) shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever."

Herpa(kher-PA) shows up much earlier in the Bible, in the section of Genesis that describes the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah and the trick two of her brothers used to make it easier to slaughter the Hivite men in retribution: Get them while they were recovering from field surgery in a rather delicate area.

"And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father with guile, and spoke, because he had defiled Dinah their sister, and said unto them: 'We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach (herpa) unto us. Only on this condition will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised" (Genesis 34:13-15).

Sometimes a different combination of shame and disgrace are used together, like busha ukhlima (Tractate Yoma 87b). But busha v'herpa, which together can mean "Shame on you!" or "What a disgrace!" seems to be the more common phrase.

When used as part of a longer sentence rather than as stand alone, the term might be better rendered simply as "disgrace" or might indicate that whoever the subject is ought to be ashamed of him or herself.

The amount the elderly receive in old-age benefits is a busha v'herpa and should be increased, a former Likud MK said early last year.

"Busha v'herpa: Ashkelon and Kiryat Malakhi have not been declared national priority areas but Judea and Samaria have been," wrote one blogger, comparing two relatively low-income parts of the Negev to the West Bank.

Sometimes the phrase is used a bit melodramatically, as with an article on the ninth season finale of "Kokhav Nolad," Israel's version of "American Idol" that summed it up as a busha v'herpa because the reviewer thought the wrong singer had won.

Whether something is a crying shame or a singing one, just remember that it's not truly disgraceful unless you double the dose.

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

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