Word of the Day Dubi Lo-Lo: Accentuating the Negative

What the No-No Bear has to do with reaching a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Last week Barak Ravid wrote in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz that Israel will be able to influence the final agreement between Tehran and six world powers on Iran’s nuclear program, “if Israel gives up the ‘Dubi Lo-Lo’ policy it has recently adopted.”

But what exactly is Dubi Lo-Lo?

Well, it means “No-No Bear,” and refers to someone who responds to everything in the negative – a “no bear” rather than a yes man. A Dubi Lo-Lo policy, then, is a policy of ongoing refusal or rejection.

The phrase comes from a children’s book by Yitzhak Avnon called “Hadubon Lolo," which has been in print for more than 30 years. In colloquial Hebrew, dubi has pretty much replaced dubon when the term is used on its own, but both are affectionate nicknames for “bear” (whose proper name is dov) or “teddy bear.”

Although the term can extend to news and politics, as in the Iran article, it naturally often comes up in the context of toddlerhood, that period in which burgeoning independence and limited vocabulary converge to give the word “no” a superstar status.

A Ynet parenting article headlined “Dubi Lo-Lo” describes what one can expect from a No-No Bear: “Does he argue all the time, get stubborn and act contrarian? Welcome to the terrible twos.”

People make reference to the term in real life too, as my pediatrician at the time did a few years ago when one of my kids was resisting answering the doctor’s questions. Jokingly, she asked my daughter, “What, are you Dubi Lo-Lo today?”

The idea of a No-No Bear has far more resonance than the actual book, which is a heavily moralistic tale about the importance of children being cooperative, and does not shy away from equating saying “yes” with being good and “no” with being bad. It involves a witch-like angel who puts a spell on the naysaying bear so that he can only say “no” even when he wants to explain that he needs help getting home. I find myself cringing when I read lines like “Here’s a bad dubon, who needs to learn something important.”

It turns out that, along with having all dinner options met with “no” or “don’t want,” reading children’s books one doesn’t much like is a cross that parents just have to (grin and) bear.

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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