Word of the Day Oh-oh: Make Up Your Mind

This isn't an Israeli sounding the alarm or hiccuping, this is an Israeli tell you to make a decision.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Though it looks in English like “uh-oh,” the Hebrew oh-oh, meaning “or-or” or rather, either/or, is not a sign of trouble. It just means the options are about to be put on the table.

We recently discussed how the Hebrew phrase gam vegam, which means “both this and that” but literally translates as “also and also,” works as a phrase because Hebrew syntax places “also” before the first item on the list as well as the second.

The colloquial phrase oh-oh runs on the same idea, with oh coming before each of two options rather than just before the second (“You can have oh hummus oh tehina,” an unusually stingy falafel vendor might tell you). Oh-oh tells the listener that the choice is either-or, not both.

In fact, Kierkegaard’s philosophical work “Either-Or,” which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes as being about a self-serving and escapist aestheticism whose practitioners are primarily motivated by “the transformation of the boring into the interesting,” is called in Hebrew “Oh-Oh.”

The phrase comes up in the Hebrew translation of an interview with Maurice Levy, the CEO of Paris-based multinational advertising agency network Publicis, in which he shared with TheMarker his vision of the future.

The Hebrew article quotes Levy as saying, during an October visit to Israel, that traditional media don’t need to say “uh-oh” just yet, at least when it comes to the continued influx of advertising dollars. That’s because over the next five years at least, he predicted, advertising will include traditional media as well as the digital kind.

“It will be digital as well as television, radio and newspapers,” the story quotes Levy as saying. “The future won’t be oh-oh, but gam vegam.”

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.

Normally, you can have a dog "oh" a cat "oh" a mouse - either/or. You could try to have it all. Good luck with that.Credit: Reuters
Most felafel vendors will let you have both hummus and tehina with your chickpea balls, they won't say oh-oh.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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