Holidays here make me want to scream obscenities. Which is natural. All encounters with drunk in laws bring out the best in me. Readers of this blog know I love dropping me some F-Bombs. But what I love even more in this country is to use profanities in the native tongue. So I’ve rounded up some of my favorite swear words in Hebrew/Arabic/Yiddish/Russian and the context in which you’ll most likely use them here in Israel. Feel free to make use of them and blend right in! Best part? Yom Kippur is right around the corner so you can promptly atone for all your verbal indiscretions.
Cus Emek. This is Arabic and, apparently, Natalie Portman’s favorite curse word. If Princess Amidala feels comfortable enough to use it on “In The Actor’s Studio with James Lipton” so should you. But what does it mean? Translated loosely from Arabic it means “Your mother’s vagina”. What’s the proper context? It’s early September and you just received your electric bill from July through August. It’s equal to your mortgage/monthly grocery bill thanks to all those hours of cool conditioned air. This is the right time to crumble it up and let out a blood curling CUS EMEK so loud your neighbors open their door. That’s right. Your mother’s vagina, electric company!
Sharmuta This is the Arabic equivalent of C U Next Tuesday. Very, very bad. Never, ever, ever use this one. Ever. Unless you’re a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1990’s banging out a Schwarzenegger flick in which the stereotypical Palestinian terrorist slaps Tia Carrera and calls her a Sharmuta! So, yeah, if you use this one expect to be slapped, kneed in the groin, kicked in the teeth with a pointed toe shoe or.. well, you get the picture.
Maniac. This one is not to be mistaken with the English word meaning lunatic. It is pronounced Man-Yak (like the animal). It is a combination of a-hole, deuchebag, miscreant and a whole bunch of others. The best use for Maniac? You’re riding your bicycle past the Azrieli center and some meshugana bus driver nearly runs you off the road. You are required to flip him off while screaming “Ya Maniac!”. Follow this by pounding on the side of the bus. Hopefully he doesn’t stop and start chasing you. That could end up being painful.
Ben Zona. This is the bread and butter of all Hebrew curse words. It means SOB and should be used only when you are waiting patiently in line at a Left Only lane for like seven lights and some Ben Zona stealthily sneaks past you from the right lane cuts you off and makes the turn. That’s one hell of a ben zona.
Dreck. This one is from Yiddish and means shit or excrement. Like when you get that IKEA catalog in the mail and rush to the store in Rishon, look for parking for an hour, walk through the maze and find the Malm writing desk that looked so awesome, locate it in the giant Raiders of The Lost Ark style warehouse, buy it, assemble it for hours sweating and cursing (see entry above for CUS EMEK) just to find out that after a week the paint is starting to chip and it’s a real effing piece of dreck.
Ahabel. This one is from Arabic and means a simpleton or one with no brain. Or in simple English a dumbass. Best use? What kind of Ahabel does an entire blog about curse words?
Pustema. This nasty curse word originates from Ladino meaning scar or a wound with pus. It is used to denote a woman that is a real PITA but has since come to describe any old dumb bimbo. As in that pustema who refuses to pay the cashier at the supermarket until she’s finished bagging all of her groceries thus holding up everybody in line. On a Friday morning. When the air conditioner isn’t working. And you need to pick your son up from daycare in ten minutes.
Zibi (or Zubi) is from Arabic (as all the great swear words are) and literally means cock. The best use for this was made in an anti-Netanyahu slogan which read: You voted for Bibi you got a Zibi!
Zayin and all it’s colorful derivatives. This is the Hebrew word for cock. There are several variations on the origins of this word but it most likely stems from the word “Zereg” which means prick. Zayin, being the first letter of the word “Zereg” was used, originally at least, as a more flaccid and less offensive version. Use it in a sentence? Sure. I asked my boss for a raise the other day after four years and I got a big fat zayin.
Blat. Lest we omit the colorful words given to us by our dear brothers and sisters from the Motherland. It means whore, I think, but can be used for almost anything. Like: Will you marry me, sweetheart, blat. Or something like that.
Finally, and most importantly, is the mother of all profanities. Literally. Ema Shelcha. Your Mother… This one can be followed by any number of colorful adjectives describing said person’s mother (whorish, fat, ugly, pustema etc.) but even on it’s own it is strong enough to spark indignation of infinite proportions. Best use? Easy. Some ben zona is double parked and blocking your car and he is nowhere to be found. Even after you honk for twenty minutes, go in to every store in the strip mall and ask whose Honda Accord it is and call the city parking authority. Finally he comes out smoking a cigar and doesn’t bother to apologize. He blasts Eyal Golan and begins to drive off as if nothing happened. Feel free to call his ema a sharmuta. But not to his face. That would be risky to your health.
There’s been only one time in my life that I’ve felt the urge to string all these horrible obscenities together and scream them at the top of my lungs in a turrets inspired supercalifragilistic explosion of frustration and anger. It was the day the experts in pediatric neurology and development sat us down after charting (in no uncertain terms) the course of our three year old’s future and telling us that he was developmentally delayed and that he may never bridge the ever widening gap between him and his peers. If only I had screamed it then instead of fighting so hard not to cry. Nobody would have thought any less of me.