A loan word portal born of great patience

in Health & Science/Life, Culture & Sports

After eight years of painstaking work, Uriel Adiv has published an online dictionary for German loan words in Hebrew.
A “very good, wonderful thing” is known in Hebrew as a “Goldstik”. For those with a knowledge of German it is immediately obvious the word is based on the German “Goldstück” (treasure). It is just one of almost 1,500 words that Jerusalem-based translator and journalist Uriel Adiv has assembled in eight years of painstaking work. In collaboration with the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (Institute of German Language, IDS) in Mannheim the terms were soundly researched and in 2015, to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations, Adiv published it as an online dictionary. Alongside many loan words, say, from architecture and the sciences, the dictionary also provides all manner of curious facts. For instance, “Shats” (pronounced the same way as the German term of endearment “Schatz”) in Hebrew is either a surname or a “term for a brutal but esteemed leader”.

Word for word - Uriel Adiv (Credit: private)
Word for word – Uriel Adiv (Credit: private)

Passion project

“One way German loan words made their way to Israel was via the influence of Yiddish, which is actually a variety of modern standard German,” explains Peter Meyer from the IDS. Initially, researchers spent hundreds of hours on the references and sources; subsequently they were digitally structured. This means the portal can now be used in several different ways: to look through lists of alphabetical headwords, to search for specific words, and as a “reverse loan word dictionary”, where you can look for loan words based on a German word.

Uriel, the treasure-seeker

It was actually by chance that in 2006 Uriel Adiv became a treasure-seeker. Back then the Deutscher Sprachrat (German Language Council) and the Goethe-Institut were looking for “words that had migrated”. First Adiv was simply curious, but then his interest turned to passion. An important discovery he made was that meanings are often altered. The favourite word of Peter Meyer and Uriel Adiv provides a beautiful example: “Shtrudel”. Naturally you can eat it in a café, say, as a fruity Apfelshtrudel, perhaps even with Shlagzan (whipped cream), but it occurs much more often (and with less calories) in a non-edible form: In modern Hebrew ‘Shtrudel’ describes the @ symbol in email addresses.

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Middle East correspondent who is passionate about writing human interest stories. Published with: Spiegel Online, Bento, Welt, Welt am Sonntag, Zeit Online, Focus Online, Berliner Zeitung, dpa and others

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