Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great Debate! People Do Argue in Sha'ar Binyamin

No, not politics.  If you don't know Hebrew you won't get this.

And the people pictured are just there for illustrative purposes.  They weren't arguing.

Yesterday at work, one of the Rami Levi people who was taking her break by this display of children's shorts on sale said:
"Your sign is wrong.  It's written:
מכנסיים קצרות michnesaiyim kitzarot short (feminine plural adjective) pants
It should say:
מכנסיים קצרים michnesaiyim kitzarrim short (masculine plural adjective) pants"
Well, you'd think with my awful sounding Hebrew I'd immediately concede that she must be right, but one thing I've learned over the years is that we who've had to learn Hebrew quite often are far superior in grammar.  The level of spoken and written Hebrew has really deteriorated in the forty-plus years I've had to function in the language.

I had no idea who had written the sign, but memories of a relevant lesson still remained rather accessible in my mind.  One of the reasons many of us anglos take so long to feel fluent in Hebrew is that we're perfectionists in our grammar and terrified of making stupid mistakes.  Unlike English, Hebrew adjectives (and verbs) are supposed to match the gender of the nouns they modify/describe/activate.  Frequently my speech slows down while I mentally review all the relevant grammar lessons before finishing a sentence.  Native Hebrew speakers take that as a lack of knowledge, sometimes insulting me by using totally awful English in the mistaken belief that my Hebrew is too weak to converse in.  The truth is that in some ways my Hebrew is better than theirs.

I defended the grammar in the sign by repeating a lesson I vaguely remembered that all the special "two" endings, -ים -ai'yim like shnayayim 2 years, שנתיים na'alayim, shoes נעליים are feminine.  The woman gave me a strange look, as if a "monkey" had given a university lecture.

So, nu, any experts out there?


Hadassa said...

I'm not an expert, and I agree that Israelis very often are not as careful with grammar as immigrants are, but there are a few exceptions to "the special "two" endings, -ים -ai'yim like shnayayim 2 years, שנתיים na'alayim, shoes נעליים are feminine". One is "shedayim", breasts. Another is "garbayim", socks.
One of the Hebrew classes that I took in Jerusalem featured a "common mistakes that Israelis make" topic once a week.
The Morfix on-line dictionary states that "michnesaiyim" are masculine. I will try to ask a personal friend who has a degree in Hebrew (לשון) about it.
To complicate matters "zugot", pairs, are masculine, so "zugot mechnesaiyim" are totally backwards.

Tzivia said...

Hmm... no expert here, but how about:

מכנסי קיץ?


Risa Tzohar said...

Hi, it's not about pairs. The rule you mean is parts of the body that come in pairs are feminine. Not all pairs.
מכנס is masculine and should be קצרים. But lots of native Hebrew speakers don't speak grammatically correct Hebrew.

Batya said...

Hadassa, Risa, a comment on facebook also agreed with you.

Jennifer, that's what an immigrant would say! But you'd get light weight ones, not shorts.