(cross-posted from Kosher Eucharist)
One of the most thoroughly enjoyable (yes, I said it, enjoyable) facets of moving to a foreign country is learning its language, stumbling along the irregular, heavily-inflected path, tripping over roots every step of the way, from your first tentative restaurant orders and conversations about the weather all the way up to the ultimate goal: always having the right blood-curdling curseword for any situation.
So I’ve decided to devote a little attention to amusing or interesting progressions in my steady conquering of the Hebrew language and its triple consonant clusters, which is bound to become a semi-regular feature. Because I love Hebrew. I love how it sounds, I love its inherent flexibility and creativity, I love its historical weight, I love that speaking it is almost an inescapable declaration of identity – and most of all, I love that you have to lower your voice an octave to enunciate it correctly, which means that those gifted with stentorian voices feel at home in it, and that women get that sexy low, throaty growl going on when they speak it.
Anyway, I have a close Israeli friend, and she’s one of those necessary platonic friends who’s always up for it when you need to gossip, gush, complain, or be reminded that you are, in fact, pretty, which is with alarmingly regularity in my case. So recently I was discussing with her the case of a certain young lady whose keen eye, discerning taste and high threshold for suffering had caused her to take an interest in your humble narrator. I was in the midst of detailing to my friend the amusing tale of our courtship when she laughed and blurted out:
“Wow, hi cholah l’kha al ha-tachat!”
This was a new one on me. A thoughtful, poetic rendering of that would probably be something along the lines of “She’s crazy for yo’ ass,” but the rigidly literal, much more amusing translation is “She’s sick for you on the ass.”
The oldest language still spoken as a native tongue, the language of the Bible, the language of poetry from the Song of Songs to Yehuda Halevi to Yehuda Amichai, the language of “cholah l’kha al ha-tachat.” I love it.
So the next time you’re with your lady, clasp her hand in between yours, look deep into her loving eyes, and whisper, “Baby, ani choleh lakh al ha-tachat.” Unless your lady speaks Hebrew, in which case I recommend “Hinakh yafah, ra’yati / einayikh yonim mi-ba’ad l’tzamatekh“ or something else safe and traditional that will hold up to scrutiny.