Word of the Day Bowling: In Israel, Same Name but Different

Want to knock down some pins? Better rhyme it with 'howling' or you'll be bowling alone.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Ask the Academy of the Hebrew Language what you call that game where you stick your fingers inside a heavy ball and roll it down the floor in the hope that it will knock something over, and you’ll be told it’s kadoret.

But ask just about anyone else in Israel and you’ll be told something ostensibly familiar: bowling. There is a catch, of course.

Hebrew may borrow heavily from other languages, but those donors may sometimes be hard-pressed to identify the words as their own. (Hebrew isn’t alone in this, of course; just ask the French what they think about the American pronunciation of “sans,” or “Paris,” for that matter.)

As with words like “Niagara” (nee-ah-gara, as the toilet tank is known) and “ballet” (which ends with a hard “t” sound in Israel, as in “pet”), so too with “bowling.”

Just because you and I know the first part of the English word is pronounced like the kind of bowl you eat soup out of doesn’t mean you’ll get very far if you ask about an activity that sounds like “rolling.”

Here, the name of the game played in an alley (or, if you’re really bad at it, in the gutter) starts off with the first half of a dog’s bark: the bow of “bowwow” rather than the bow you might tie in a little girl’s hair. In Israel, bowling rhymes with “howling” – and, naturally, “disemboweling.”

And that is a whole new bow(e)l game.

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, click here.

BowlingCredit: Haaretz

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