This is a guest post by Sonya Matsui.
Sonya Matsui is a translator, writer, and editor, and has been working as an English teacher in the Israel school system for the last sixteen years.
The two languages, Hebrew and Arabic, are in many ways close to one another. They, of course, share Semitic roots. “Mote” in Arabic means death. In Arabic, a suffix can be added to a word to express belonging – such words as “my”, “your”, “his” etc., can be added to a word.
A Hebrew speaker saw an Arab child, and, thinking he was very cute, turned to the mother and cooed,”Eizeh motek” – What a darling! The Arab mother heard “mote” (death) with “k” attached, which would indicate “your”. The situation took a little patching up – of course, the expression on the Hebrew speaker’s face did not match the interpretation in the Mom’s mind. Gotta be careful out there – sometimes, the most innocent comments are dropped into a mine field!