Avshalom Kor is the Israeli John McWhorter, a linguist who became a pop culture icon to the swelling ranks of word nerds out there. A scholar as well as a TV and radio host, he’s made a name for himself as the bespectacled knight crusading on behalf of the Hebrew language. Whenever an English word—email, say, or Internet—grows popular, Kor is there to scoff and, usually with a double dose of dad humor, offer a purist alternative in the mother tongue. Few of his alternatives caught on—you won’t catch any Israeli telling you she logs on to the mirshetet to check her doal—but his star still burns bright. Or, at least, bright enough to inspire some creative mind to recruit Kor in an effort to Hebracize the most daunting of all foreign-language texts: The Ikea catalogue.
In a new commercial for the Swedish DIY giant, Kor complains that the company’s new mifraton—that would be the proper Hebrew term for the thick doorstopper featuring the company’s furniture—should be translated so that every sofa, armoire, or end table receive their proper designation in the language of the prophets.
That comfy Strandmon chair, for example? He ought to be a shkabee, shka being Hebrew for “sink” and bee meaning “into me.” And those beautiful artificial flowers, sold on the catalogue as Smycka? “We called it a kzavzer,” Kor deadpans—Kzav meaning “false” and zer meaning “bouquet”—“because it’s artificial, just like my smile.” Then there’s the Pachloa, the Tafshevet, and a host of other beauties that sound much better than those harsh Scandinavian consonants we’re used to seeing under the blue-and-yellow banner.
And what do you say to those about to grab the Allen wrench and begin the blistering job of tightening screws and wondering why they have so many bolts still rolling on the floor when the work’s supposedly done? Kor has a suggestion for that, too: Alu ve’Harkivu, arise and assemble: