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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Weird, Wacky, Wonderful (Hebrew) Words: Kedai / כְּדָאִי vs Kedei / כְּדֵי

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Meet the word kedai.  It’s one of my favourites.

Here it is:  כְּדָאִי

(say it – ke-DIE, like as in when a person dies)

This has got to be one of the most subtle, flexible words in the Hebrew language.

Part of its beauty is that it doesn’t have an exact translation.  Morfix says it means, “it is worthwhile, feasible.”  It’s probably true, but believe me, kedai gets a lot more use than those English words ever have.

Every time someone says that Israelis are all aggressive and in your face, lacking any semblance of subtlety, a kedai loses its wings and falls to the floor in a coma.  To Israelis, kedai is the essence of subtlety and tact.

If you want to suggest that it’s better to do something – it’s kedai.

If you prefer one option over another – it’s kedai.

If you want to take advantage of a limited time only offer – it’s kedai.

If you want to steer someone away from utter foolishness – it’s kedai.

For example, my ulpan teacher would go on and on and on, forcing us to memorize the expression כדאי לשלם חשבונות בדואר / kedai leshalem cheshbonot badoar, “it’s kedai to pay your bills at the post office.”

She didn’t just mean it was worthwhile.  Oh, no, she meant that you’d be a moron, the very worst type of freier (sucker) if you ever thought about paying your bills at a bank (where there are service charges) instead of at the post office (where there are none).

Believe me, this word goes WAY behind feasible.

If you’re a beginner at this Hebrew stuff, or a near-beginner, like I was, make sure you don’t mix up kedai with a very similar word:  kedei, a fairly straightforward but very common word which means “in order to.”

Here’s a simple chart that may help you understand:

kedai / כְּדָאִי

kedei / כְּדֵי

Sounds like:  DIE as in “die, mutant!” Sounds like:  DAY, as in “nice day, isn’t it?”

Meaning:  it is worthwhile (and so much more)

Meaning:  in order to

Example:  כדאי לשלם חשבונות בדואר.

Example:  הוא הלך לדואר כדי לשלם חשבונות.

It’s kedai to pay your bills at the post office. He went to the post office kedei to pay his bills.

I hope this was useful. I'm always happy to help.  Or should I say:  I’m here kedei to help you.  So it’s kedai for you to pay attention and you’ll never mix them up again!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


4 comments:

  1. Oh you have picked one of my most favorite Hebrew teacher translations. "It's worthwhile", a phrase almost never heard in everyday English in exchange for a phrase that is essential to Israelis. I always though that "you should", "it's a good idea to", "you need to" or "you had better . . ." all seemed to better express what they were saying depending on the sentence. However say one of those to a Hebrew teacher and you get a frowny face - "no, no it means it's worthwhile".

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    1. Yes! The first time my ulpan teacher said "worthwhile," I was like, "huh?" Because that is a word I use almost never, while kedai is useful practically in every other sentence sometimes. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. It's most kedai to pay your bills online and not waste time at the post office!

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely! I agree, in theory, but we haven't quite worked out the "how" of this, so we usually work it into another necessary trip to the post office so there's no time wasted.

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