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Three times ice cream

August 27, 2010

Idioms are hard in foreign languages. Some people don’t even use them all that much in their native language — my lovely non-native speaker of a spouse, in fact, is absolutely bursting at the seams with idioms on any given day compared to me. And cliches. And more obscure American cultural references than even I, born and raised in the U.S., can keep up with. He puts me to shame.

Speaking of shame, I came face to face with with a Hebrew idiom on the stairs leading to my front door yesterday. A new family was moving in next door, and the movers were coming and going up every minute or two. On the way out for the evening, halfway to the car I realized I had forgotten something and had to go back inside. I passed the same friendly mover guy yet again, and he cheerfully exclaimed “פעם שלישית גלידה!” (pa’am shlishit glida!)

Big Toe the Ugly Doll eats ice cream at Ben and Jerry's on Newbury Street in BostonI understood the words perfectly, or at least thought I did: pa’am shlishit means “third time,” and glida means “ice cream.” But “third time ice cream”… what? Did he want ice cream because he’d climbed the stairs three times? We didn’t have any ice cream in the house or I would have happily offered him some. I didn’t know what to tell him. He seemed like a nice guy and was grinning ear to ear waiting for my response. I looked at him and apologized with what I assume was a very unflattering look on my face (similar to Big Toe‘s signature blank stare above). The mover man shrugged and continued up the stairs.

When I got to the car I asked my husband what he thought. “He wasn’t asking you for anything. He was just saying ‘third time’s a charm’ since he’d seen you a couple times in a row.”

Apparently ice cream is charming over here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessica B. permalink
    August 29, 2010 9:36 am

    I believe that ice cream is charming EVERYWHERE! I shall adopt that clever expression and insert other charming desserts, such as pumpkin pie or streudel.

    • August 29, 2010 4:03 pm

      Pie seems to be involved in a lot of American idioms. American as apple pie, pie in the sky, easy as pie (or a piece of cake, for that matter)… I prefer to eat rather than interpret desserts!

  2. Claire permalink
    August 31, 2010 9:43 pm

    I like the illustration. I would very much enjoy a flip book with Ugli dolls as characters.

  3. Isaac permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:56 pm

    Third time ” ice cream” is a mistranslation from the English – “I’ll scream” . e.g.. If I see you again, I’ll scream – some clever Israel heard ice cream – and translated it to “glida.”….


  1. How Hebrew can complicate an English conversation: Part 2 « From 外人 to גוי

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