I Was Born on a Seat

Israeli newspaper Haaretz has an interesting article today on high school seniors’ misuse of electronic dictionaries during their English exams. Can you decipher what the students meant, from what they actually wrote?

  • I want you to barber about your experience
  • Drivers don’t curfew in red light
  • The weather was father-in-law
  • I was born on a seat

Read the full article in Ingleesh or in Ibroo.

H/T: Guy Yitzhaki

Walking Without Excessories Is Like Walking Around Naked

In the last couple of years it became common practice for Israeli newspapers to stuff themselves with supplements which look at first like genuine newspaper addition, but are actually just advertisements posing as articles. This is an effort, I assume, to give the inherit deceitful nature of advertising an air of objective news coverage.

[singlepic id=9 w=150 h=230 float=right]There is one such monthly supplement about cell phone models, one about office equipment, and a few that feature an array of products, linking fashion trends with things you can purchase. A new supplement which fits the latter is titled: URBAN – GET A LIFE STYLE [sic].
When I first laid my hands on it I thought I was reading it wrong, as I myself often feel the uncontrollable urge to tell people searching for style to get a life – and so having the very source of evil inadvertently tell the same to its readers, thinking it is a clever play on words – well, that just brightened up my day.

I started flipping through the magazine and had to really fight my gag reflex. The pages were filled with pseudo-new-age mantras, one nauseating mantra before each of the magazine sections [emphasis and capitals theirs]: It’s not who you’re sleeping with BUT where in the lodging section, Food is like desire. It’s much better in a PRETTY package! in the dining section, It’s not who you’re talking to BUT what you’re talking with in the cell phones section, There are two ways to achieve HAPPINESS: Be in love or drink fine wine in the wine section, There’s electricity in the air GET IT! – yes, you guessed it – in the electrical appliances section.

And then I hit the mother lode in the accessories section:
[singlepic id=10 w=450 h=662 float=center]
You see, it is quite rare to be able to summarize a critique into a single sentence, much rarer to be able to summarize it to a single word – but to find one such word published by the very people the critique speaks against, well that is as close to force majeure as you can find.

Yes, excessories is exactly how I would spell the unnecessary daily purchases done by people trying to fill the void in their soul, and here it comes from the advertiser’s mouth. Oh! The humanity…

Epilogue:
When I first stumbled upon the website Engrish.com which meticulously documents the Japanese’s futile attempt at mastering the English language, I laughed so hard at ‘those stupid Japanese’. I assume this is exactly what non-Israelis do when they look at us, as we also show the same negative correlation between how cool the natives revere the English language and how poor their actual English-language skills are.

Optical Illusions: Finally An Israeli Company Who Will Not Tolerate Contemporary Advertising Trends

Rabbi Raphael Halperin, owner of Optica Halperin (and a former wrestler), announced yesterday that he is cancelling the tender for the company’s advertising account. This was the first time in 19 years the company called a pitch to run its three million dollars account, but after reviewing the bids Halperin decided to continue advertising on his own, buying media as an individual.

Halperin told Maariv newspaper that he did not like any of the ad agencies’ bids, as all of them focused on changing the company – not advertising it.

I applaud Rabbi Halperin as it must be difficult to watch the current advertising trends, and say with conviction: You are all crazy, and I must be the only sane person left. While he did not elaborate, I am willing to put my money where my keyboard is and suggest each of the bids received included at least one of the following overused superficial makeovers:

The Acronym Shtick:
In lieu of creative thinking let’s just acronym the company’s Hebrew name into English letters, just like with these companies:

Matim Li   >>   ML
HaMashbir Mahsaney Ofna   >>   H&O
Lilith & Varda   >>   L&V
Avigdor Shoes   >>   AVG

The Color Shtick:
They say if you can’t make it good, make it big – and if you can’t make it big, make it red. The following companies actually paid money for this advice:

Cellcom (telecom)   >>   Purple
Pelephone (telecom)   >>   Blue
Orange (telecom)   >>   Orange
Bezeq (telecom)   >>   Blue
Mirs (telecom)   >>   Green
Hapoalim (bank)   >>   Red
Discount (bank)   >>   Green
Leumi (bank)   >>   Blue

The Logo Shtick:
One of my favorite shticks, and the one that proves ad agencies basically create their own market by convincing companies to change their logo every couple of years.
Here is a visual timeline I created for a number of leading Israeli companies, one not-so-leading company that has never changed its logo, and one organization that was brave enough to revert to its vintage logo after two years of using a new-and-improved logo.
Please note this is a draft and some dates are mere estimates.

Timeline of Israeli Logos

New From Israel: Beauty-Free Cosmetics

Beauty-Free CosmeticsAs much as Israelis love English, Israeli business-owners like English puns and play on words better. Well, not really play on words, but what they perceive to be a clever play on words.

How about an Israel cosmetics company that apparently wanted to stress how inexpensive its products are, and came up with the ingenious name of Beauty-Free Cosmetics.
Yes, they wanted the customer to make a connection between the beauty products and the cost of similar products sold in the airport Duty-Free shops. These people love English so much they did not bother to check the meaning of ‘duty’ or ‘free’, and so they are now selling cosmetic products without beauty.

Pay No Attention to the English-Speaking Israeli behind the Facebook

There is no way around it, when it comes to computers, I am old school. When I first laid my hands on a keyboard, I was about seven years old and all the letters were in English. It was an Apple II clone, there was no hard disk, instead of a mouse there was a joystick, and of course there was no Hebrew involved.
The grown-up world was still trying to make these business machines work, so making them work in Hebrew, a language used by a few million people, was unheard-of.
To this day whenever I get an annoying ‘my computer does not work’ phone call from one of my computer illiterate friends, the first thing I am trying to establish is what pretentious action was executed to make a popular software fail. One time it was Nero not being able to burn Hebrew-named files onto a CD. Another time it was a graphics editor that kept refusing to open photos from a Hebrew named folder.
This is why I consider myself old school, as I always try to make it work and never insist on making it work my way. My thinking is always: it worked for a couple billion users, what possibly could Dana from Jerusalem do to make it break down?

Shahar with his Apple clone computer - 1984

I am aware, though, that I am pretty much alone in this battle: while I consider Hebrew an added bonus within the IT world, most Israelis approach it with a sense of entitlement. ‘If it does not work in Hebrew – it does not work’ some say. Others confess to not even trying to read any English, pressing the [Yes] or [No] buttons arbitrarily or by gut instinct.
The number 1 movie database is in English? Let’s use database number 700 – it’s in Hebrew!
You Google for answers in Hebrew and get none? Chances are you stumbled upon one of those eternal unanswered mysteries of the universe!

Shahar and his brother Liran with their Apple clone computer - 1986

This was pretty much the mentality around here, until MySpace and Facebook arrived. All of a sudden, Israelis found out they can read and write in English when they want to, and they started seeing the benefit in communicating worldwide using one universal language.
For all those people (some of which are my best friends) I hold the utmost disdain:
You who have frowned upon your (copied) software for not doing what you wanted it to do,
You who have allowed your personal computers to contract viruses, Trojan horses and venereal diseases because the warnings were in English,
You who have called your geeky friends in all hours of the day and night, horrified that your computer stopped working after clicking ‘Yes’ to an ‘Are you sure?’ message box you have not read,
All of you should be ashamed.

Only now did you discover you can actually put to use the second language your country made you learn from grade 4 to 12?

Franco-American Bag of Chips

American French fries I just got a catalog from the local branch of Shufersal, Israel’s pioneer supermarket chain, and my eyes landed on a photo of a frozen bag of fries. I’m not sure if it is the oldest trick in the book, but it is certainly prevalent: take any Israeli made product, add the word ‘American’ in front of its name – and the indigenous people will buy it like crazy.
That’s how you end up with a bag of French fries that reads ‘French fries’ in English and ‘American fries’ in Hebrew.