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Learn, Practice, and Perfect Your Hebrew: Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

The StreetWise podcast from TLV1 in Israel can help you use your Hebrew to properly talk about the many definitions of craziness

Rose Kaplan
March 15, 2016

I’m working on a Hebrew translation of one of my favorite songs, Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” which is bashert because our featured StreetWise Hebrew podcast episode this week centers on the language of craziness. Boom!

To start, while meshuga definitely takes the cake as English speakers’ favorite Hebrew/Yiddish word to describe a person as crazy, host Guy Sharrett notes that this usage is now viewed as somewhat inappropriate; the more precise and less stigmatizing term pgu’a nefesh—literally, “emotionally hurt”—is used nowadays to talk about mental illness.

The musical selections in this episode, “Crazy Hebrew for Crazy Days,” shine; love, and the ways it can give us yamim meshugaim (crazy days), are, of course, potent fodder for pop music gold. Yoni Yosef’s “Meshage’a et Kulan,” a slithering electropop tune, teaches us hu meshage’a et kulan (he drives all the girls crazy); Zohar Argov’s swirling reggae-inflected ’80s track “Al Teshag’i Oti” gives us al teshag’i oti (don’t drive me crazy); and Trio Carpion’s wild klezmer polka romp “Push the Button, provides a Yiddish lesson (i.e., meshuge, instead of meshuga).

Okay, now back to Britney Spears, who meshage’a oti, she drives me crazy—in a good way. As always, as you listen, you can follow along with the words and phrases below.

Yamim meshugaim – Crazy days – ימים משוגעים

Meshuga – Crazy – משוגע

Pgu’a nefesh – Mentally ill – פגוע נפש

Leshage’a – To drive someone crazy – לשגע

Ze ha-erev ha-ze ha-meshge’a – It’s this terrific evening – זה הערב הזה המשגע

Meshgea – Wonderful, terrific, smashing – משגע

Hu meshage’a et kulan – He drives everybody (f. pl.) crazy – הוא משגע את כולן

Al teshag’i oti – Don’t drive me crazy – אל תשגעי אותי

Shige’a – He drove crazy – שיגע

Ha-bachura shelcha, hi rak shig’ah otcha – Your girl, she only drove you crazy – הבחורה שלך, היא רק שיגעה אותך

Ba’al ha-bayit hishtag’ea – The owner lost his mind – בעל הבית השתגע

Yesh tipot shel shiga’on beinenu – There are drops of insanity between us – יש טיפות של שיגעון בינינו

Shiga’on – Craziness/groovy – שיגעון

Shaga’at, Tarefet – Craziness – שגעת, טרפת

Kor’im leze shaga’at, kor’im le-ze tarefet – One calls it craziness, one calls it insanity – קוראים לזה שגעת, קוראים לזה טרפת

Metoraf – Crazy – מטורף

Meshuge (Yiddish) – Crazy – משוגע

Shaja-a (Arabic) – He encouraged – שג’ע – شجع

Tashji’a (Arabic) – Encouragement – תשג’יע – تشجيع

Rose Kaplan is an intern at Tablet.