This week, the AP reported on the phenomenon of Israeli politicians carrying on with their semi-important duties all while having slightly ridiculous nicknames. This isn’t anything new, but with the election of Isaac Herzog to the head of the Labor Party, a new star was born.
When Isaac Herzog was a child, his Egyptian-born, French-speaking mother thought him to be as pretty as a doll. So she blended its Hebrew word, “buba,” with a French-sounding term of endearment, “joujou,” to create a distinct nickname that would stick with the boy for life — “Bougie.”
Bougie is also sometimes employed as shorthand slang for bourgeois in America so, you know, go figure Labor Party. Herzog is now the main opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known by much of the world as “Bibi,” the diminutive bestowed upon him by his brothers as a child.
As I read a few academics giving various rationales for why so many Israelis and Israeli politicians go through their lives with silly nicknames, I was reminded of the opening scene in the pilot of the HBO show “The Wire” in which Jimmy McNulty laments the death of Snot Boogie, who was so named because one day he forgot his jacket, his nose started running, and “so he’s snot forever.” Life just be that way, I guess.
I don’t know of any Israeli politicians named Snot (although Osnat somehow remains a popular girl’s name), but in addition to Herzog (Bougie), there’s also Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (Bogie) to contend with. With this in mind, The Scroll humbly presents you with the opportunity to flex your knowledge of Israeli politics and the genius of David Simon in our first-ever Israeli Politician or Character from ‘The Wire’ quiz. (Scroll down so you don’t have to register to play.) And good luck!
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.