Word of the Day / Lezayef

In Hebrew, off-key crooners and cash-hungry counterfeiters are described by the same word.

In Hebrew, the same word is used to mean forging, counterfeiting, faking – and singing off-key. You might use a form of the word “lezayef” if you wanted to talk about forging a passport, printing counterfeit $100 bills or faking a heart attack (the Hebrew word used to describe a Wisconsin man who did so in 2008 to avoid paying a restaurant bill). To judge by the Hebrew Internet, orgasms may well be the most popular thing to fake.

“Lezayef” may seem a bit harsh for someone who sings off-key or even just misses a note here and there – after all, there is usually no intent to defraud the listener – but it’s actually quite similar to the concept of hitting a false note. Either that, or it’s the Hebrew language’s way of saying that people who cannot carry a tune (and I very much number among them) might just find themselves facing fraud charges if they don’t keep it down.