Word of the Day Dag Maluah: How to Get the Grandkids to Like Herring

'Dag maluah' is not only a staple on many a kiddush menu but also the name of a children’s game.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Herring already has a reputation as a favorite food among the Ashkenazi over-70 set, but in Israel, dag maluah (dahg mah-LOO-akh) – literally “salted fish” – is popular among the (great-)grandchildren too. Except that when the kids are talking about the herring, there is generally no fish involved.

That’s because Dag Maluah is not only a staple on many a kiddush menu but also the name of a children’s game that resembles the U.S. game Red Light, Green Light 1-2-3. There are several versions, but the gist of it is that one of the players turns her back to the others, closing her eyes and saying “Ahat shtayim shalosh [one two three] dag maluah!” as the other children sneak up closer to her while her back is turned and freeze when she faces them. This player is the dag maluah, like a player in tag is “it,” until she is replaced by the first person to reach her.

Other countries have equally random-sounding versions of the game, like 1-2-3 Soleil (meaning “sun”) in France, 1-2-3 Calabaza (“pumpkin”) in Mexico and Cukr, Kava, Limonada (“sugar, coffee, lemonade”) in the Czech Republic. The “it” playing the game in Czech has to recite “Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!” before turning around. That may be quite the shopping list, but to some of us, at least, it sure sounds tastier than dag maluah.

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.

This herring is no child's play.Credit: Tali Mayer

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