Word of the Day Sof Haderekh

The 'end of the road' may be a downer but Hebrew offers a positive twist on termination, suggesting that it just doesn't get any better than this.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

The figurative end of the road often has a negative connotation in English, as with a Globe and Mail story from December about the decision by the London mayor's office to stop licensing black taxis, headlined "London's black cabs hit the end of the road." It can even refer to death, as in the sentiment expressed by a pet owner who lost his dog to cancer and posted on a dog-rescue website that he prays that when he reaches "the end of the road," he will see his dog waiting for him in heaven.

That makes sense, since the terminal at the end of the bus or train line – or at the end of the road, if you prefer – signals its termination.

Some of that despondency carries over in Hebrew as well. Take Aner Shalev's recent opinion piece in Haaretz arguing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should step down because he has reached sof haderekh (SOHF ha-DEH-rekh, which literally means "the end of the path"), since even if he succeeds in forming a coalition, it will be his coalition partners who are in control and not him.

But unlike in English, "the end of the road" is also a slang phrase meaning "great" or "awesome," as in a Hebrew recipe for sof haderekh oatmeal cookies whose directions recommend freezing half the batch as soon as the cookies cool down, so they don't all get eaten within a day. This colloquial take offers us a positive twist on termination, implying, perhaps, that we've come so far and it just doesn't get any better than this.

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.

To call these cookies 'the end of the road' is a big compliment to the baker. But eat too many, and that could spell the end of the road for you, too.Credit: Carrie Vasios / Serious Eats

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