Britannia Rules the Words No More in Israel

Only Vestiges of British Speech Still Remain in Use

Trainspotting:  In Israel, one can hear only a few hints of English as it was spoken in the days of British Mandate Palestine.
Getty Images
Trainspotting: In Israel, one can hear only a few hints of English as it was spoken in the days of British Mandate Palestine.

By Philologos

Published September 29, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

And then there’s tremp, Israeli Hebrew for a hitchhiked ride, from British “to tramp” — that is, to hike. Hitchhikers or trempistim, though still more prevalent in Israel than in other Western countries, are less common than in the past, but if I give a lift to a friend, that’s a tremp, too.

Nor, to go from verbal to sign language, does one thumb a ride, as one does — or used to do — in America. Rather, the trempist extends his arm horizontally from the shoulder, European style, with its open palm facing the oncoming driver, and leans slightly forward.

A jinji, from Mandate-period “ginger,” can be in Hebrew to this day anyone with light-colored hair. The feminine form is jinjit, and the masculine and feminine plurals are jinjiyim and jinjiyot. The word is particularly used for redheads, but I can remember more than once, in the days when I still had a full head of light-brown hair (which hasn’t been for a while), being called by it. “Halo, jinji!” — “Hey, you with the light hair!” — can be an effective way of hailing someone in a country of mostly dark-haired people.

Halo, “hey,” from English “hello,” is a British-Mandatism, too. It’s pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, which is probably also British influenced, as in British “hel-lo” — “Look at that!” or “What have we here!” But a shouted “hel-lo” is also used by the British to hail someone far-off whose name you don’t know. (“Haloo” or “haloa,” on the other hand, is a traditional cry for urging on one’s dogs in a foxhunt.)

Halo, uttered with a falling rather than rising tone, as “hello” is in English, can also be an Israeli way of answering the telephone. Yet it has a slight gruffness about it — a hint, as it were, of “Who’s bothering me now?” — that makes it less polite sounding than the more frequently heard “Shalom.”

There may be more Mandate-period English words in today’s Hebrew, but if there are, I can’t think of them. The British Mandate lasted only 30 years, and though educated Israelis continued to speak English with a British accent for quite a while afterward, that, too, is a thing of the past.

American English now sets the tone, as it does almost everywhere, and words like pancher and tremp are part of the little that is left from the days when Albion ruled the waves.

Questions for Philologos can be sent to philologos@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.