Thursday, June 23, 2011

Slang Army Hebrew: Tash

Updated (7/31/11): Ad mati, Aftare, Chaver Bamba, Cheerboon Bayit Rishon, liHeetafetz, Katlani, Miklachat Tachat, liNaker, Patur, Sh'pitz, Teroof, Yom Sidureem (previous updates: li’Asrel, Choter, Doogri, Kapara, Tash, Totach, Wassach).

Many foreign volunteers like myself enlist in the Israeli army determined to learn Hebrew. The army, so they say, is the best ulpan (Hebrew language school). As I have mentioned before, the reality is something else entirely. That something else is a Hebrew unlike the sentence structures and vocabulary used by the rest of the population. Soldiers speak a Hebrew vernacular that has only a casual respect for formal grammar and whose vocabulary can be divided into one of three categories: tash (chilling), klalot (cursing) or mivsa’ee (military acronyms).

During my early months in the army, a need to understand my peers had me scribbling down their slang phrases in a palm-sized notebook. That first notebook has been succeeded by dozens of others, with my fascination for language and culture providing the necessary motivation to build what has become a veritable dictionary of Hebrew army slang. Language is one of the surest ways to understanding a culture, a truth this dictionary will hopefully illuminate.I have divided my sea of terms into the three categories mentioned above. Keep reading for the list of tash terms. The klalot and mivsa’ee selections will follow shortly.



Nearly all the following words have to do with lazing around or snacking, the two activities soldiers busy themselves with whenever possible. Get ready for the world of chilling.

A’chat haDevarim ‘one of the things;’ One of the best, especially.

Used as a general formula to single out something as special. A noun or adjective can also replace the term devarim ‘thing’ in the phrase to give a more specific reference to the expression. As in, achat haSeforim ‘an especially good book’ or achat haMagilim ‘something really disgusting.’
Beautiful restaurant. It really is
a’chat haDevarim.
Thanks. Have you tried the pita?
Wow, this pita is achat haTa’amim (‘one of the tastes;’ a really tasty dish).

Achi ‘my brother;’ Dude, buddy.

Generic name for everyone in the army, friend and stranger. Ach Sheli, ‘my brother’ with the suffix separate, is also used. Gever, mister, is the main alternative to refer to someone by anything but their name.
Achi, have we met before?
Achi, it has been great serving by your side for three years.

Ach’la Wonderful.

An Arabic word, as common in day-to-day Israel as in the military. In Hindi, a similar word means earth or balanced, providing a nice undertow to our grasp of wonder.
If everyone is ready then, ach’la! Lets lock and load.

Ad mati ‘Until when;’ Forbidden slogan that encapsulates the soldier’s desire to be done with the army.

The slogan of the shavuz (see def.) soldier, or simply any soldier fed up with whatever he is assigned to do. The army equivalent, essentially, of the quaint expression “fmylife.” Whether ad mati is uttered in jest or misery, soldiers get in trouble if overheard muttering the forbidden phrase. Officers don't like the "screw this" mentality the words convey, no doubt because they at times share the shame frustration as the troops. The ban likely adds to the enduring popularity of ad mati, ensuring that no day or bathroom stall escapes a cry or spray-painted scrawl of ad mati.
Ad mati is joined in the list of forbidden phrases by at least two other terms: kama ode and aifo kulam. Kama ode, "how much more?," shares the same virulent message of ad mati. Aifo Kulam, "Where is everyone?," is more subversive when asked of an officer, since the unstated answer is Thailand, namely the exotic land the rest of the officer's draft class has escaped to while he/she remains mired in the military.
My soul is utterly confounded, and You, my G-d, ad mati? (Psalms 6:4)

Aftare ‘After;’ Vacation from the army for one day.

Short for ‘after duty’ or ‘after hours,’ since the typical aftare starts in the afternoon after the day’s work, as if it were, is over and grants the vacationing soldier a break until the following morning. Many jobnikim (see def.) that suffer the difficulty of not sleeping at home (most jobnikim serve on bases that they commute to from home) have the right to an aftare as often as once a week. The term dates from the British Mandate period, as do most slang expressions with English roots.
If you are a lone soldier and a jobnik on a closed base, it is important to schedule your aftare and your monthly yom sidureem strategically for maximum vacation time.

Aize gever ‘this is a man;’ What a man.

Compliment. Especially to a guy who does something courageous or manly.
Aize gever! I wish I could eat two cans of loof (canned meat) at one sitting.

Al haKefek Excellent.

An Arabic term used only by officers, never regular soldiers. My first, less than admired, platoon leader used this term incessantly, so if I add that the phrase expresses a sense of smug arrogance you will have to forgive me.
If I hear that bunghole say Al haKefek one more time I will punch his lights out. Contrary to his words, all is not necessarily so kef.

li’Asrel Aseer she’rah lo, ‘unsatisfied prisoner;’ To pretend to work.

You could wash the floors with rabak (see def). Or you can do what everyone else does and just li’asrel the job.

Beese A portion of someone else's food.

The terms bisele (Yiddish) and piece (English) seem to be the source of this word. Often slang Hebrew words that start with a ‘b’ sound derive from terms that start with a ‘p’ sound. This comes from the Arabic tendency to replace a ‘p’ with a ‘b’ since Arabic lacks the ‘p’ sound.
C’mon, give me a beese of that Kit-Kat Bar (strange but true: No in the chocolate-wafer crazy Israeli army has ever heard of eaten a Kit-Kat Bar).

Be’tist, Bettim On-base medical exemption from physical training.

The term derives from the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, BET, based on an unclear classification whereby Alef means healthy, Bet means medically impaired and Gimel means medical home leave. Every soldier wants gimelim because it means time at home. A be’tist, a soldier with Bettim, can suffer from anything: upset stomach, leg brace, even cowardice if he plays his cards right.
Did the doctor give you gimelim for your sore thumb?
Nope, just
bettim. It sucks, but hey, now I am a be’tist!

Chaf’shash chufshat shichrur, ‘vacation dismissal;’ Vacation time preceding the end of military service.

Combat soldiers go on vacation a month before the end of their military service. Jobnikim, non-combat soldiers, have a break calculated from the number of their remaining vacation days, for a maximum of twenty-one days off before their dismissal. The reason in either case, especially pressing for combat soldiers, is that the army lacks sufficient gear. In order for new draftees to receive the necessary equipment, soldiers on the way out must recycle theirs onward. By turning in their gear as they start chaf’shash in October, for example, the draft class of November 2008 provides the army with enough time to recycle and prepare sufficient gear for the new draft class of November 2011.
Who isn’t counting down every day until his chaf’shash?

Chamshoosh chameeshee sheeshee, ‘five/six’ or ‘Thursday/Friday;’ Weekend home leave that starts on Thursday.

Weekend leave normally starts on Friday morning, known also as a shoosh (from sheeshee, Friday). Jobnikim, non-combat soldiers, always leave on Thursday. Some even are so spoiled to enjoy a ravoosh (from rivee’ee, four or Wednesday), starting leave on Wednesday. See also chamshoosh amral, chamshoosh cornflakes, ravush, shoosh kidush.
What a spoiled jobnik, leaving the army for the weekend on another chamshoosh.

Chamshoosh amral chameeshee sheeshee + emtza’ee ri’ee’at layla, ‘five/six’ or ‘Thursday/Friday’ + ‘night vision gear;’ Leaving the army for weekend home leave late on Thursday evening.

Amral refers to any night-vision device used in the IDF. Attaching it to the slang term chamshoosh suggests that a soldier gets home on Thursday once darkness has fallen. A chamshoosh amral is the short end of a good deal. On the one hand, it means a soldier starts his weekend home leave early, before the regular Friday morning exit. Yet it is a Thursday exit in name only, as by the time the soldier gets home the day is over. That said, waking up in your bed at home on Friday morning is exhilarating to the Israeli soldier who otherwise would be woken up in the predawn hours to clean up before leaving base.
It might only be a chamshoosh amral, but I am still happy I got out of the army on Thursday.

Chamshoosh cornflakes chameeshee sheeshee + cornflakes, ‘five/six’ or ‘Thursday/Friday;’ Leaving the army for weekend home leave early on Thursday morning.

Making it home on Thursday morning in time to eat cornflakes, breakfast, is the best of the best. The standard every soldier wishes for when leaving the army a day earlier. Leaving base before seven AM qualifies as a chamshoosh cornflakes.
I got out so early on a chamshoosh cornflake the stores were still closed and I had to eat my cereal at home without milk. Still, awesome!

Chaval al haZman ‘pity about the time;’ Waste of time, amazing.

Can be used in either the literal, negative, sense or as a positive expression with the opposite meaning: what an excellent use of time! See this blog devoted to the Hebrew language for a fascinating discussion of the expression.
That movie? Chaval al hazman!
So if it sucks, what is worth seeing?
Sucks? No, I meant the movie is awesome!

Chaver bamba ‘A Bamba friend;’ A fair-weather friend.

The expression comes from the otherwise obnoxious cur that suddenly becomes your best friend when you produce a snack food like the eponymous Bamba.
If you come to the army with too many extras, expect to attract a lot of chaver bamba types early and often.

Cheerboon Bayit Rishon Churban Bayit Rishon + Cheerboon ‘Destruction of the First Temple + Defecate;’ The first crap at home after spending twenty-one days straight in the army.

Going to the bathroom in the army, especially when the bathroom is a simple squat somewhere in the wild, lacks many of the pleasant associations of partaking of the same activity at home. Indoor army bathrooms are typically rank cesspools whose only positive is providing a hideaway to use the phone when such an activity is otherwise forbidden. Taking a crap in the great outdoors is a challenge of balance, flexibility and leg strength, not to mention comfort with squatting with your pants down in aural if not visible distance of your squad (best to avoid mentioning how the experience is affected in the absence of toilet paper). In either case, the poor quality of army food means the experience is all the more regrettable. This is especially true after a week or more in the field when the exclusive diet of combat rations leads to high-fiber dumps that produce ginormous fudge dragons. All this boils down to a moment of unadulterated relief when a soldier arrives home and immediately drops a doozy in the fine comforts of the home facilities.
Churban Bayit Rishon, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, is a traumatic date in Jewish history, commemorated with sorrow by observant Jews on the summertime fast day of the Ninth of Av. Switching the similar words churban and cheerboon creates a term that expresses how profound a soldier’s first crap is at home after weeks in the army. The term also suggests that the poor army food consumed over the preceding week lead the first crap at home to create a traumatizing stench in the bathroom and possibly screw up the plumbing to boot.
My cheerboon bayit rishon this weekend was legend. I did not know whether to flush or name the craposaurus that was left in the bowl when my work was done.

Choopar Unexpected treat.

The source of this term is a mystery.
Who would ever have believed our home leave would start a day early? What a great choopar!

Chooki’lookeem Snack/junk food.

Cookies, Bamba and wafers are all typical chooki’lookeem, one of the most common terms in the infantry. Other military branches use other slang terms, such as digoomeem in the artillery (totchanim) or even neesh noosh (see def.). The source is unclear, though ‘chocolate’ (shokolad in Hebrew) seems to have inspired at least the first half of the term. The noun, like most slang terms on this list, can also be made into a verb, l’chak’lake ‘to snack (on junk food).’
The meals on base may be awful, but hey, that is what chooki’lookeem are for.

Choter, Chatran, To/one who chase(s) after tash (see def.).

Choter (verb) and chatran (proper noun) come from the word chatirah, to row (a boat), as if one is rowing, i.e. chasing, after tash.
Some units have a culture of excellence. Our unit has a culture of chatranut. Everyone tries to choter all the time.

Doogri Honestly, straight talk.

Someone who speaks doogri “tells it like it is.” Hebrew borrowed the word from Arabic, which in turn adopted the term from the Turkish dogru, which means ‘straight, true.’
Can you believe his BS? Doogri, sometimes I just want to record his hanfatza (see def.) and play it back to him.

Gazlan ligzol, ‘to rip-off;’ Ice-cream van.

No matter where military exercises are located, a gazlan can always be counted upon to come rolling up with that familiar suburban tune, ready and willing to sell ice-cream and soft-drinks to desperate soldiers for exorbitant prices.
Tra na na na la la…You hear that? I cannot believe the gazlan managed to find us here in the middle of nowhere.

LiHanfeetz ( n. hanfatza) To bullshit.

Lihamtzeem, ‘to imagine,’ seems to be something of a source for a word with no true origin. Sort of like pornography, you know hanfatza when you hear it: pure BS, the sort of talk that goes on and on with little relevance to reality. See also, stall bet.
I can’t take a single word our commander says seriously. All he does is lihanfeetz everything.

liHeetafetz Ayafoot Tzavait ‘Army tiredness;’ To doze.

A soldier who drowses off, especially when taking a nap is forbidden, such as during sentry duty or a lecture. Commanders are always warning soldiers lo liheetafetz ‘do not doze off.’
Do not worry if you liheetafetz during sentry duty, you will be punished by staying on base for the weekend (closing Shabbat) so you will have lots of time to catch up on sleep!

liHeetarake litroke ‘to slam (the door);’ To throw oneself into sleep.

This word tends to set up a good took (see def.), suggesting a soldier is so exhausted that he is prepared to throw himself into sleep like one slams a door, with utter abandon and singleness of purpose.
We finished cleaning our guns. Long past time liheetarake.

Kapara, Kapara Alecha ‘atonement, atonement for you;’ Dearest, as in a heavily sugared term for a friend.

As in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement set aside on the Jewish calendar for fasting and forgiveness, this term literally has something to do with penitence. The day before the fast, a curious ritual known as Kapara (or plural, Kaparot) has Jews swing a chicken over their heads while declaring: ‘This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement…this chicken will go to its death while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and peace.’ The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor. While modern Israelis aren’t thinking of squawking chickens when they refer to their dear ones as kapara, our dearest friends do share something with the sacrificial bird who takes us at our worst and with whom we form a deep, if albeit brief, spiritual bond.
While kapara implies strong affection, it is often used with total strangers or to defray or mask annoyance with others. Similar words include: eina’im sheli (lit., ‘my eyes’), mohmee (honey), motek (sweetie), neshama (lit., ‘soul’).
Kapara Alecha can also express ‘you cannot be serious’ or ‘calm down,’ in a jovial, even thankful, sense.
Lets go kapara (in Hebrew, yalla kapara!)! We’re going to be late.
Kapara Alecha! I’m not even dressed yet. Give me a few more minutes.

Katlani ‘Deadly;’ Intense, awesome.

Like teroof (see def.), similar to the way a California surfing dude would describe a great wave as ‘killer.’ See teroof, rabak.
It was just katlani how quickly he pulverized his opponent in Krav Maga.

Loof canned meat. Kosher spam.

The basic ingredient in manot krav, field rations, was a pink blob of canned meat named loof. A chosen few love it. For the rest of us, loof is a culinary catastrophe. The army has heeded the majority and over the last few years, loof has been phased out of use (replaced by tuna!).
Eating loof with pleasure is like kissing Jabba the Hut. Most of us simply lack the intestinal fortitude for such torture.

Miklachat Tachat ‘Butt Shower,’ Airing out your rear with the wind.

The miklachat tachat is a reaction to the sweat covered backside that results from climbing a steep mountainside in heavy gear. Upon reaching the summit, soldiers drop their packs, unleash their belts, and let the cool mountain air cool things out down yonder.
I fantasize about warm baths during tough army marches so the occasional miklachat tachat is a promising sign of seeing my dreams realized.

liNaker ‘To woodpecker;’ To head-bob while dozing.

The tired soldier in a boring lecture has a tendency to imitate the woodpecker (Nakar in Hebrew; the verb liNaker formally means ‘to poke’), drowsy neck muscles allowing the soldier’s head to slowly fall downward some ninety degrees before briefly regaining consciousness and snapping straight back up. The cycle repeats itself, to the great amusement of head-bobbing fans in attendance. This activity happens when a soldier is in a state of heetafutz (see def.).
Moshe gets the best neck workouts during boring lectures. To see how quickly he starts to linaker is truly a wonder to behold.

liNash naish To snack (on junk food).

When chookilookeem (junk food, sweets, etc. see def.) emerge, the nashing is not far behind. liNash naish seems to have a Yiddish root, since ‘to nash’ is also a favorite slang of Jews in exile the world over. This verb even comes with its own less heralded noun: neesh noosh, a synonym for chookilookeem, junk food in the common tongue.
As tired as I am, I always have energy liNash naish. Bring on the chookilookeem!

Patur ‘Exemption;’ A medical excuse from participating in normal military activity.

Soldiers seek a patur from the army doctor for anything, including shaving, kitchen duty and all forms of physical activity.
I cannot guard the base at night because I have a patur from the dark.

Ravush rivee’ee, ‘four or Wednesday;’ Weekend home leave that starts on Wednesday, Yom Rivee’ee.

The few, the happy few, that band of brothers and sisters that go home on Wednesday are spoiled rotten jobnikim (non-combat soldiers.)
Enlisting to the infantry means forever banishing the word ravush from your vocabulary.

Sachbak Friend.

Not the most common of Arabic terms embraced as Hebrew slang, yet still dropped with abandon here and there.
A sachbak in need is a sachbak indeed.

Sha’pash siddurim, inyunim, po v’sham ‘organizing things here and there;’ The free hour before bedtime in the Nachal Brigade.

During basic training, soldiers receive an hour of free time before lights out. This is the time for using cellphones, throwing back junk food (chookilookeem) and getting ready for bed. Considering one also needs to shower and prepare ones personal gear for the morning, the hour tends to fly by way too fast. Outside of Nachal, this free hour is called sha’tash (see below). No one is quite sure why the men of the neon green beret use a separate term.
Nothing says amazing like that moment every evening when our sergeant announces the start of sha’pash.

Sha’tash sha’a trom sheina, ‘hour before sleeping;’ The free hour before bedtime.

What everyone in the army except Nachal (see sha’pash) use to describe the free hour soldiers receive before bedtime during basic training to do whatever they want. Many are under the false impression that sha'tash is an acronym for sha'a tash (hour of tash). They are wrong.
My boyfriend in Nachal never calls me. He claims he does not get sha’tash time to use his cellphone every night like the rest of the army. What a doosh.

Sh’natz shaina tza’arayim ‘afternoon sleep;’ Nap in the afternoon.

The goal of any chapshan (see def.) or Laotian. The consummate soldier realizes that lunch break is designed as much for the sh’natz as for eating. And afternoon bus rides? Thank you Lord. Like the best slang terms on this list, sh’natz is at once both a verb and noun. I sh’natz, you sh’natz, we all sh’natz a sh’natz together!
Life is just too short to not pull off a sh’natz when you feel like it.

Sh’nab shaina boker ‘morning sleep;’ Nap in the morning.

Any schlub can pull off a quick sh’natz (see def). The real vet is he who makes time for a refreshing sh’nab before noon. Considering most days in the military begin at dawn, there is enough time and easily enough motivation to slip in a quick sh’nab.
A sh’nab is my way of offering morning grace to the god of took (see def.).

Shlook A portion of someone else’s drink.

The liquid equivalent of a beese (see def).
You open a bottle of Nestea, you’d best be ready to hand it over for many a shlook.

Shoosh kidush Arriving home from the army late on Friday evening.

Shoosh (from sheeshee, ‘six,’ ala the sixth day: Friday) is slang for weekend home leave that starts on Friday, that is a regular weekend leave for combat soldiers. Kidush is the benediction over wine at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. Hence a shoosh kidush suggests that a soldier gets out of the army so late on Friday afternoon that by the time he arrives home the Shabbat evening meal is about to start. In short, the worst type of weekend leave!
I would rather close Shabbat on base then get out on a shoosh kidush.

Sh’pitz ‘Tip;’ A soldier that excels in a given task.

Like the tip of the spear, the sh’pitz is front and center in his accomplishments.
Did you see how fast he ran the bochen maslul (obstacle course). What a sh’pitz!

Stall bet To verbally mess with someone.

Although as used in the army stall bet suggests verbally working someone over, taking them for a ride, the slang term can also be self reference to suggest one is chilling out. See also, l’hanfeetz.
Are you stall bet with me? Or did you really hook up with Scarlett Johansson this weekend?

Tash t’nai sherut ‘service rights’ All the good things in the army.

There are rules in the army ensuring that soldiers receive a certain number of meals and hours of sleep per day, weekend home leaves after a certain maximum length of time in the army (thirty-five days), and all the special assistance the army may provide to lone soldiers or soldiers from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. These rules are the formal source of the term tash. Every unit even has a (female) soldier, called the ma’shakeet tash, whose job it is to ensure and assist soldiers in getting their various tash privileges.
In practice, tash has a far wider meaning, encompassing all the good things in the army. Easy training? Tash. Good food? Tash. Serving as a jobnik (noncombat soldier)? Tash. New equipment? Tash. Midday naps? Super tash! Tash is so pervasive that the army can arguably be divided into one of two experiences: tash or kader (see def).
Tash sh'tayim, 'tash two,' describes getting off from the army two days a week or more regularly than regular soldiers. Soldiers who receive tash sh'tayim have home issues-low income, parents ill or in jail- that compel them to return home to work or help the family.
They say in the infantry you have to love the suck. That’s fine, I just wish the tash didn’t suck as well.

Teroof Intense, crazy, awesome.

Like katlani, similar to the way a California surfing dude would describe a great wave as ‘out of control awesome.’ See katlani, rabak.
How was my shower? Teroof!

Took ‘off;’ (pronounced tuke, like duke). Nap.

The source of this word is unclear. It seems to be a rare Hebrew word for ‘off,’ because the US-issued Hebrew lettered radios used by the IDF are inscribed with the terms ga and took, on and off. More importantly, the simple translation does not capture the splendor that this term evokes in the midst of a tiring week in the army. For me the term evokes the simple bliss of Tolkein’s shire (Perrigen Took of Lords of the Rings providing the link), hobbits lazing around with grubby feet, drinking, resting, drunk on life’s simple pleasures. Took mitkadem means what it translates to, a tongue in cheek statement of fact: advanced stage of sleep.
Took is my favorite slang Hebrew term, hands down.
I would cross miles for you, my love, my soul, my daily took.

Totach ‘Cannon;’ Impressive, standout guy.

Aside from the Freudian implication of referencing the alpha male by the most phallus-like of weapons, there is not much to say about totach. Like aizeh gever, the totach demands and receives respect for his imposing abilities.
What a totach! I did not think it was possible to finish the obstacle course in under seven minutes!

Wassach Wallah sachtein (Arabic), 'yeah (walla) impressive/congrats (sachtein); Anything displayed or performed in order to look cool or impressive.

Pimp my ride is the motto of the wassakist, the soldier who goes all out in making his gear, especially his gun, look as pimped out and spiffy as possible. This tends to involve adding as many extras (forward hand grip, flashlight, laser sight, fancy scopes, etc) to the standard rifle as possible.
He is so full of himself. Look at all the extras he attaches to his rifle. Pure wassach.

Yalla Lets go.

Arabic term used indiscriminately in Hebrew, as a greeting, goodbye and for applause. Ya’alla, a similar Arabic term, can have a similar meaning or be used to say “I cannot believe this!”
Everyone, get up! Yalla Orev (Orev is the nickname of my unit)!

Yom sidureem ‘Organizing day;’ A day off from the army to take care of pressing civilian needs that lone soldiers are entitled to once a month.

Yom sidureem is designed to provide lone soldiers (see def.) a chance to take care of concerns like bank accounts and phone plans they otherwise would not have time for on the regular weekend leave. Most lone soldiers, however, are not too proud to use a yom sidureem for more leisurely pursuits, requesting a day to square away their rent checks but actually spending the day chilling on the beach with chums. Although lone soldiers have a right to one day off each month, whether they receive the day depends on the goodwill of their officer, and the gumption of the lone soldier and his masheekat tash (see def).
A strategically scheduled yom sidureem is such a breath of fresh air.


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