Word of the Day Happy End: When the Hebrish Guillotine Drops

In Israel, don't waste your breath on happy endings.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Let's maybe cut this short, shall we?
Let's maybe cut this short, shall we?
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Disney is an expert at the art of the happy ending: Cinderella gets the prince and makes friends with the animals (and, unlike in the Grimm brothers version, her stepsisters don’t hack off parts of their feet as they try to fit the bleeding remnants into the shoe), Ariel gets her voice as well as her man, and so on down the line.

But when Israelis want to describe a happy ending, they often leave off the ending to express the same idea in a way that sounds just a little bit different. Hacking not toes or heels, but the less painful “-ing” off the end of “end,” Israelis’ happy ending is a shorter happy end – or, more frequently, given Hebrew’s lack of an apple-y short “a” sound, “HEP-py end.”

The English-ish phrase prevails in written as well as spoken Hebrew. Haaretz’s Hebrew website recently ran a video showing a baby panda meeting its mother in a Taiwanese zoo and titled the page, in Hebrew (of sorts), “Happy end for Taiwan’s first panda cub.” And writing about the international success enjoyed by Israeli cinema, Israeli business news site Calcalist asked – in an article headlined “Happy end?” – whether the awards and accolades had done their part to line the pockets of the movies’ creators.

Israel isn’t the only non-English-speaking country that renders “happy ending” as “happy end,” however. The foreshortened phrase is the name of a Japanese folk rock band, a German musical comedy that opened in Berlin in 1929, a Parisian communication agency, and at least three movies: a Swedish drama from 2011, a South Korean film from 1999, and a 2003 French film written and directed by Amos Kollek, an Israeli director and writer and a son of the late longtime Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.

Guess that’s the business end of happy end. Ah well, all’s well that ends happy, whether in English, Hebrish or Japanese.

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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