Word of the Day / Kvaker

Whether they are steel cut or rolled, Israeli oats are often referred to by a nickname borrowed from an American cereal icon.

You know how people always seem to be compiling lists of brand names that have morphed into common nouns, like Band-Aid and Q-tips for Americans and Hoover (as a verb) for the British? Well, an Israeli list would have to include the very non-Israeli brand of Quaker Oats -- except that since Hebrew has no “w” sound, you’ve got to pronounce it KVAH-ker.

There is an actual Hebrew term for oats -- “shibolet shu’al” -- but Israelis frequently refer to the grain as “kvaker.” You can make yourself a bowl of daysat kvaker (oatmeal) or munch on some ugiyot kvaker (oatmeal cookies), but oatmeal is not a typical Israeli breakfast, not least because there’s not much in the way of cold winter days. It seems fitting, then, that it is often referred to by an American brand name. And it probably helps that Quakers, as a religious group, are not exactly on the radar of most Israelis, so I guess it doesn’t seem particularly incongruous to be, as one macho military dude said to another, eating a bunch of pacifists for breakfast.