Word of the Day / Hai B’seret: Living in La La Land

'Starring in a movie' doesn’t make you a celebrity, or even an actor. In modern Hebrew, it means you’re out of your mind.


Living a movie-star life may seem like a glamorous ideal for some, but in Hebrew, when you say someone is “living in a movie” – hai b’seret in the masculine or haya b’seret in the feminine – you mean they are delusional, living in their own little dream world that is blissfully disconnected from reality.

If your eccentric Uncle Murray is utterly convinced that he would have spent eight years in the White House if only his career as a telepathist had gone a tad better, or the classmate who failed every test so far is so sure she’s going to get an A in the course that she blows off the final exam, you might sigh and say they’re "living in a movie" – one they mistakenly think they are the ones directing.

“The tragedy of the boorish man is that he really believes that he’s all right,” writes an Israeli couples therapist in an essay on his website. “He doesn’t for a moment stop to think that maybe his entire attitude is mistaken, that he lives in a movie [hai b’seret] and not in reality, which is always built on frameworks, commitments and boundaries.”

The boorish man, Uncle Murray and your baselessly optimistic classmate are living in la la land – that L.A.-inspired space of the mind that isn’t in Kansas anymore.

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.