Word of the Day / Le’apes

Sometimes to move forward, you have to start again from scratch. Modern Hebrew has a talent for finding inspiration from unexpected nouns (and numbers) and turning them into verbs. Here’s another case of making something out of, well, nothing.

Just knowing there is a Hebrew word for “reset” will make you more knowledgeable about the language than an Israeli Internet service technician whose phone assistance I once had the misfortune to require. During a conference call with me and a technician from a different company, this zero clearly had no idea what the other tech support person was requesting when he asked her to “le’apes” (pronounced “le-ah-PES”) my modem.

The word for “to reset,” like the noun form “ipus” (ee-POOS), comes from “efes,” the Hebrew word for “zero” (in Hebrew a “p” and an “f” are the same letter, vowelized differently). Thus the Hebrew term zeroes in on the concept of recalibrating something by bringing it back to its zero state.

When the service representative finally got the picture, she described it with the Hebrish equivalent, exclaiming, “Oh, la’asot [to do] reset!” Exhibiting zero tolerance for use of the correct Hebrew word, she took the offensive, almost shocking my modem back to life by asking the other technician in an accusatory tone: “Why don’t you speak in Hebrew?” I can only hope the company she was working for at the time has by now decided her number is up.