What a Hassel!

"Angel's Dictionary for the Business World" (two volumes, English-Hebrew and Hebrew- English), edited by Yossi Angel, Ela Publishing, NIS 590.

The orange and white lettering of the title of "Angel's Dictionary for the Business World" disappear in a most unbusinesslike manner against the slate-gray cover - but don't be fooled by that lapse in business acumen. The plot is also weak, but editor Yossi Angel, a certified accountant who also sports an MBA, does not neglect to include the latest biz buzzwords and Internet jargon in his compendious coverage of Hebrew-English business terminology.

This is a plus if all you have in your arsenal is Oxford's one- volume, bidirectional translation dictionary, or Reuben Alcalay's impressively extensive but outdated "Complete English Hebrew Dictionary" three-volume set. Apropos of which, another charming attribute of Angel's dictionaries is that the books' spines do not detach if you have the temerity to peruse them. There is also the navigational aid of the alphabet running down the margins of each page, a plus when searching for a word beginning with a new letter, but otherwise an unnecessary distraction.

Angel's two-volume set - one offering English to Hebrew translations, and the other the reverse - is vastly broader in scope than the four-volume, out-of-print Itav series that Globes published on stock market, marketing and other business terms. That curiously incomplete series covers primarily Hebrew to English, and not much of it at that. Yet the Itav series offers something Angel neglects to provide: explanations, at least from Hebrew to English. Itav's compilers do seem to have assumed, somewhat deferentially, that those who know the English term also know what it means and merely wonder what the locals would say.

Angel almost entirely lacks explanations of terms, except in particularly esoteric cases. He offers a vast 120,000-plus words and terms, though unless you know which translation to choose by context, his prolixity might be of little help.

Spin and psychobabble

Take for instance his suggestions for hanpaka: "emission, flotation (floatation), issuance, issue." Unless your text points you specifically toward one of these alternatives, you are lost. Angel does, however, provide a helpfully long list of types of hanpaka, which could alleviate your problem. Itav provides only "placement, issue," but in contrast to Angel, it explains what a hanpaka is - the "issue of securities by a company" (our translation).

Speaking of flotation, or floatation, as Angel pointlessly points out, one of the challenges of translating business texts from Hebrew to English is that terms tend to float. One man's hanpaka is another man's so-called privatization. None of the dictionaries this author has read addresses the issue of weeding spin and "We are No. 1" psychobabble from news or other documents that translators or foreign businesspeople would inevitably encounter when doing business in the Holy Land.

Truth be told, it would be a challenge for any dictionary to address the difficulty inherent in trying to comprehend a foreign business culture. But Angel is of singularly little help to a layman desperately wondering what the difference is between a "budgetary pension" and a "contributory one." Helpfully, right in the same column on page 459, the hapless reader can learn that panika translates as panic, a must-know word in the business scene.

Nor can any dictionary, not even that of the meticulous Angel, help you eliminate perfectly gratuitous gibberish in phrases such as "Yossi Strawberry Farming and Sewage Systems, Ltd. is a leading company in the field of strawberry farming and repairing sewage systems." All the dictionary can do is list translations of the ubiquitous and usually superfluous word t'hum, of which Angel offers no less than 19 possibilities. In this case, at least, he breaks down the translations by possible context.

The otherwise comprehensive Angel volumes skip over the ministries, government institutions and law entirely, except where they pertain to the business world. And where they do provide a translation, the prolix Angel suddenly turns tight on ink. The Israel Securities Authority is merely called "Security Authority." Try to Google that. The dictionaries list the Ministry of Finance, but not its fellow ministries. For government offices, you'd be better off perusing the phone book.

Oddly, Angel does not stint when providing alternative spellings. Asiyat dgamim, he helpfully tells us, translates not only as "modeling," but as "modelling." And for some reason, this usually admirably thorough editor chooses only one translation for riv - hassle, which he begs to note can also be spelled "hassel." (Never knew that.) In an all-too-rare referral, Angel does suggest that the puzzled reader consult the translation of vikuah, which proves to be: hassle (hassel), as well as argument, argumentation, contest, controversy, debate, discussion, dispute. In contrast, Alcalay on riv: quarrel, fight, dispute, take issue with, contend, strife, etc. Not a hassel in sight.

Speaking of odd translation choices, Angel translates obligo into obligo. Hmm. Unfortunately the word does not exist in any dictionary your faithful reviewer has checked, including the everyday Merriam-Webster, and that bible of economics terminology, "Barron's Finance & Investment Handbook."

Refreshing expansion

Then there is Angel's version of netzig ovdim, which Haaretz usually renders into "labor representative," or more opaquely, "workers committee member" or some such literal translation. Angel offers us "shop steward," which is of course the correct translation, but it is also an inaccessible one. Couldn't the man who thought of 10 translations for drisha, augmented by 10 suggestions for darash, give us something more down to earth? Other offerings are downright delicious: Raayon mekori, literally "original idea," is translated as "wrinkle." (And only as wrinkle. If you don't know the idiom, tough.)

I would have liked a list of the names of laws, which can be found in hideously expensive legal-translation dictionaries. Angel offers a vast range of technological terms, a refreshing expansion beyond traditional business-related language, though again I thought his decision to translate "computer addict" - mekhur mehashvim - as "hacker" was a bit bizarre. In the context of computers, Merriam advises that a hacker is a problem-solver, or someone who illegally accesses, and sometimes tampers with, information in a computer system. It does not define the genre as people who need to get a life.

The dream team for translators would be Angel and Alcalay, perhaps augmented by the wee Oxford for help with idioms. Angel's is far and away the best translation dictionary of business terms available in Israel, if you have enough background to choose the right translation. It has all the modern and business terms that Alcalay's fragile volumes neglect, while the veteran Alcalay has almost every other word and weed known to mankind. Certainly, you'll need both if translating a treatise on the public issue/flotation/floatation/issuance (thanks, Angel, but which one?) of securities by the leading No.1 company engaged in the field of supplying optical components to optical customers that provide communications infrastructures to companies engaged in the field of providing multiplexing and supplying herbicides. Or, as a seasoned translator might deduce, "Motti Optical Fibers and WeedKiller Spray is hitting the market," with no help from any of the dictionaries.