Word of the Day Ikhsa: Found Chewed Gum Stuck to the Bench?

Though many may differ on exactly what qualifies as 'ikhsa,' most Israeli parents would agree that 'we don't say ikhsa about food.'

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

We recently discussed a common word for “repulsive” that derives from the Bible. But before Israelis get to that stage, they learn an even more basic word for “gross” that is familiar to every kid on the playground: Ikhsa (EEKH-sa, generally expressed with an exclamation mark at the end). And sometimes, for rhyming emphasis: Ikhsa fikhsa!

Meaning “icky,” “yucky” or “gross” and also sometimes rendered as ikhs, this highly technical jargon is at least as likely to come from the mouths of the parents and grandparents cheering the kid running over to scope out the dog poop as it is from the kids themselves.

“Don’t touch that! It’s ikhsa!” I found myself saying to my 2-year-old the other day as she bent over to examine the fascinating piece of chewed gum stuck to the bench at a bus stop.

Another synonym, also common among young children and their vigilant guardians, is fuya (FOO-ya), from the German Pfui, meaning “phooey.”

Of course, the adults on the lookout may differ on what exactly qualifies as ikhsa or fuya. I have heard parents use this word to warn their children off from the feral cat that likes to prowl around our neighborhood playground hoping for remnants of nosh falling from little hands, but I have seen others allow their child to pet it.

One thing most parents agree on, though: the mantra that “We don’t say ikhsa about food!” A theater review in Haaretz a few years ago about a show that focuses on things that gross people out (rats, the mucus-like texture of a raw egg) played on this phrase for the Hebrew headline, which read: “We don’t say ikhsa about ikhsa.”

And then, things that kids themselves consider yucky may change over time. A 7-year-old boy may consider girls to be ikhsa, but could find his views have changed a bit a decade later. One would hope that as children mature, the reverse trend holds as well and certain objects become more icky than they used to seem. Because frankly, the idea of a grown-up who thinks it would be really fun to play with the dog poop on the grass – not to mention a grown-up who thinks it’s a good idea to have his dog poop in a park and not clean it up – is pretty ikhsa fikhsa.

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.

'Ikhsa.' Credit: Dreamstime

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