Word of the Day / Instalator: Mr. Fix-it for Every Pipe, Even the Kitchen Sink

The non-official word - borrowed from the German word for 'plumber' - has gotten comfortable in the nooks, crannies and pipes of the Hebrew language.

There are lots of things you could conceivably want to install: Adobe Flash Player, Dropbox or Java, or perhaps new locks on your doors or fans on your ceilings.

If you’re in Israel, though, don’t call an installer – or, as they say it here, an instalator (een-stah-LAH-tore) – for any of those needs. Installers in these parts are the guys who (on a good day) fix the leak in your sink or even, yes, install a new shower. (On a bad day, they charge you double and let you keep the leak for free.)

In other words, instalatorim (to use the plural) are plumbers. Instalator was borrowed from the German word for “plumber,” installateur, and got comfortable in the nooks, crannies and pipes of the Hebrew language.

It remains more popular than actual Hebrew word, shravrav, which comes from the Aramaic shravruvi and is used in the Jerusalem Talmud to mean “pipe.”

Take a look at ads for plumbers and you’ll see the dominance of the longer, German-based word, or derivatives like instalatzya, meaning “plumbing.” But one plumber gets extra sludge-points for not only using the Hebrew word but also involving it in word play.

Riffing off well-known advice from Ethics of the Fathers – “Make yourself a rabbi/teacher [aseh lekha rav]; acquire a friend; and judge every person favorably” (1:6) – one Jerusalemite advertised his plumbing services by replacing rav with shravrav, calling on prospective customers to get themselves a plumber (aseh lekha shravrav). I don’t know how good this guy is with his tools, but he seems to be installing his puns in all the right places.

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.