Up to Here

For some reason I’ve been thinking about ways to talk about having had enough of something. And not in a good way. I mean like when you want to stand up and shout “enough is enough” or in Hebrew, something that translates roughly into די!

די is a funny one because, as someone pointed out to me a few weeks ago, if you shout it at your kid in public in America you will likely find yourself arrested, or at least visited on occasion by a creepy lady from Social Services. In English we’d say “knock it off,” “cut it out” or “cool it” which all mean stop doing what you’re doing. But I was thinking about how there are so many Hebrew phrases that describe being tired of something or being emotionally worn down. There’s מיואש, גמורה, מחוק, שפוכה to name just a few. In English you say “sick and tired” which doesn’t mean you are ill or even sleepy, but just that you don’t have the emotional strength to deal with something anymore. And what’s funny is that I find myself resorting to Hebrew when I want to describe this state, because those Hebrew words just seem to do it so well. I wonder what that says about the mental state of our population. So without further ado, here’s a list of sick and tired phrases and words in English:

  • I’ve had it up to here – this can come with a hand motion where you motion just above your head, as if you yourself are totally full of whatever it is that you’ve had enough of and just can’t take any more.
  • Fed up – English being what it is, this, of course, has nothing to do with food. It means that you are tired of something and you can use it on its own “I am just fed up” and you can also specify what you’re tire of “I am fed up with your behavior.”
  • Disenchanted – This means that you used to have good feelings about something, or believe in it, but now you don’t anymore. “I’ve become disenchanted with the shuk since my wallet was stolen there while I was buying olives.”
  • Disgruntled – This means you’re really bitter about something and have trouble keeping it to yourself; you hear this word a lot in connection with people’s places of work. “The disgruntled employees gathered into the conference room to voice their concerns.”
  • Jaded – Jaded is when you used to be able to think the best about someone or something, or see the good in them, but you’ve been exposed to too much and now you are much more cynical and can no longer expect the best or see the good in a situation. I haven’t found a translation for this word in Hebrew. I thought for a while that it was צבוע but that turns out only to mean hypocritical, which means you act one way and feel another. “She was so jaded after the fourth startup closed down, that she started packing her desk the minute she saw the email from the CEO.”

Me, on the other hand, I’m quite sure that next week’s tips will be more uplifting. There’s got to be some optimism coming our way!



I recently invited a friend and his family over for dinner and was rather shocked when, in response to my heartfelt invitation for delicious food, the friend said “I don’t care about coming to dinner.”
If you can imagine my shock, you probably don’t need this tip. And before you recommend that I quickly run out and make some new, more polite, friends, take a breath (like I did) and think about the translation.
In Hebrew, we have the wonderful phrase לא אכפת לי   and if you have any teenagers in the house like I do, you’ll definitely be familiar with the many faceted faces and shrugs that can go along with this loaded phrase.
And, in truth, my friend’s translation wasn’t really wrong, it was just misplaced. There are many ways to let someone know you don’t care in English—many of them pretty foul. So here are the (clean) phrases that can be associated with not caring in English and the proper ways they should be used:

  • I don’t care, I couldn’t care less: This means that something is unimportant to you.
    Throwing your plastic bottles in the street is like saying I don’t care about the environment.
    Do you want pizza or pasta?
    I don’t care, either one would be fine.
    couldn’t care less who finished the wine as long as there’s another bottle.
  • I don’t care for: adding for after I don’t care changes the meaning. This means I don’t like.
    I don’t care for raw onions in my salad. I pick them out and leave them on the side of the plate.
    I’m leaving you, Martha, because I’ve realized that
    I don’t care for the perfume you wear.
  • I don’t mind: this means something does not bother you.
    I don’t mind picking little Jimmy up after kickboxing practice, you picked up last week and besides, I have nothing better to do than drive around in circles picking up the kids.
    Do you mind passing me the water? No, I don’t mind at all – here’s the water.

    Now, there is one funny use of do you mind which is using it on its own to let someone know that they are doing something really annoying, and this is a big one used by teenagers.
    When I stick my head into my daughter’s room without knocking she might whine “Mom!!! Do you mind??!!”
    If someone you don’t know seems to be eavesdropping on your conversation at a restaurant, you can give them THE look and say “
    Do you mind??!!”
    It’s sort of an expression and sort of a question and it’s full of attitude so you might want to be careful who you say it to.

So I imagine my friend meant to say that he wouldn’t mind coming for dinner. Which may not be enthusiastic enough for me to ever invite him again, but it isn’t as bad as saying I don’t care.
My advice to you is that in English, unless you really feel strongly about something it’s always better not to let people know when you “couldn’t give a shit.”


 My grandmother passed away last night. She was my last living grandparent and lived until she was 97 years old. She was a woman of few words, my grandmother, and unlike me didn’t really like to tell a story. But she did talk about what it was like to be a woman many years ago and how few options women had; and despite that, she was one of the most independent women I’ve met, living alone and driving herself around until she was 92. She collected teacups, made delicious cinnamon cookies, played a mean game of canasta and read every book she could get her hands on.

Which is what I’ve been telling the well-wishers who have been calling and writing all day. And all day I’ve been translating between Hebrew to English and back again. So here’s a list of what you’re supposed to say to English speakers when someone dies. First rule is this: don’t say die or dead or croaked or kicked-the-bucket any other form of the definitive end-of-life. The “gentle” way to talk about death in English is to refer to a person’s passing or loss.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss – this is pretty standard and pretty tame. You can say it to just about anyone in the extended family and it works well. If someone at work loses a family member (loses means death, not that someone wandered off at Costco and you can’t find them anywhere near the jumbo jars of Advil where you left them) you would do well to send this empty sentiment in an email. In general being really sorry is a good thing when it comes to death. You can just hold someone’s hand and say “I’m so sorry,” or send an email that says “I’m really sorry to hear about your uncle,” and you’re covered.
  • My condolences – Condolence means sympathy, or sympathy with someone else’s sorrow (I thought that was empathy). So this is probably the closest you can get to the Hebrew משתתף בצערך which is actually pretty nice, but doesn’t really translate well – you can’t say “I participate in your sorrow.” Condolence is actually pretty cumbersome to use. You can basically only say it like a vague offering “my condolences,” unless you’re sending them through someone else, which works better “please send Paul my condolences.”
  • May you be comforted with the mourners of Zion –Apparently, we Jews say this to each other. In my family we call it the “hukkum mukkum” because that’s what it sounds like people are saying. I’ve personally never really connected with this phrase on any level, and it seems ghastly long for something you need to say when you’re already feeling awkward, but in an email, well, knock yourself out.


The bottom line is that when your colleague tells you that the thing you’re waiting for is going to be late due to a death in the family, your email response has to acknowledge their grief in some way before dealing with the business at hand. I always go back to a previous boss who, when told that one of his employees was going to be late for work because of his grandfather’s funeral, responded in email with “ok.” Ouch. It doesn’t get a lot colder than that in Alaska.

For my part, I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and look at some pictures of Grandma Jean. And if you’d like to participate in my sorrow, you’re welcome to stop by for a cinnamon cookie.


Who’s on first?

Who’s on first is probably the most famous Abbott and Costello skit, in which they joke about a baseball game full of people with names that are really confusing (Who, What and I Don’t Know).
But the word
who’s is pretty confusing even without all the silly antics.

The thing is, an apostrophe sometimes works to indicate a contraction (two words combined into one, like doesn’t and aren’t) but most of the time it’s possessive, meaning that it shows that something belongs to someone or something. For example, Andy’s shoes means the shoes that belong to Andy. But in who’s, it gets all confusing.

Who’s basically only works as a contraction of who and is, or who and has:

  • The guy who’s coming for dinner is bringing the wine.
  • Amy, who’s been here before, knows we prefer red.

That seems pretty simple, until you remember that there’s also whose. Whose is the possessive of who:

  • The guy whose shoes were left under the table at dinner came back to pick them up later. (they are his shoes)
  • Whose book was published last month? (to whom did the book belong?)

And of course this is confusing because for most other words we use an apostrophe followed by an s to indicate possession. Unless you’re talking about a guy called Who, and we’re talking about something that belongs to him. But that’s unnecessarily confusing if you’re not writing a comedy skit in the 1930s.