There are many Hebrew words for which there’s no tidy English translation.
Like what? How about lehitlabet/ הִתְלַבֵּט, which means “to be conflicted about something” or have doubts, be uncertain, or be in the middle of pondering something. The word just doesn’t exist in English.
But sometimes, it happens the other way around as well…
Like the word kadur / כַּדּוּר, which technically means “ball.” Simple, right?
Except that the concept of “ball” in Hebrew extends far beyond where its boundaries are found in English.
In English, one tends to think of a “ball” as falling within a specific range of sizes, anywhere between “golf” and “bowling.”
This a ball:
And this is a ball:
But in Hebrew, these also count as כדורים/kadurim, or balls:
Yes, they are far smaller. In fact, I sort of giggle inside at the thought of “taking a ball.” There is the word glula / גְּלוּלָה, which means “pill,” but it is used almost specifically to mean “the Pill.” Anything else is a “ball.”
But you’d better be careful about which shop you walk into to ask for your pills, because these are also “balls,” or kadurim / כדורים:
And remember how I said before that, in English, we sort of have a built-in psychological limit to what we consider a “ball”?
Not so in Hebrew. Just as that little teensy pill can be considered a “ball,” so can this…
That’s because, in Hebrew, there’s no word for “sphere” or “globe.” So you call the earth kadur ha’aretz / כַּדּוּר הָאָרֶץ, which means literally, “ball of the earth.” (Though there is also the Latinate globus / גְּלוֹבּוּס, which means exactly what it sounds like, but is far less commonly used.)
I love this language so much, even if it sometimes falls short, or is just plain quirky. I guess you could say I’m still having a ball learning Hebrew. Oh, except that kind of ball is actually translated neshef / נֶשֶׁף, like the one Cinderella went to.
Never mind. When it comes to translating puns, I guess you can’t win ‘em ball.