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  5. "מלפפון מר."

"מלפפון מר."

Translation:A bitter cucumber.

July 14, 2016



I did some Biblical Hebrew way back in my seminary days, and it's weird which things are coming back to me. Or I guess not that weird; not too many cucumbers in the Tanakh, but there were definitely a few bitter people.


Interestingly enough, cucumbers do get a shout out in the Torah, when the Israelites are complaining about having only mana to eat in the desert:

זָכַרְנוּ, אֶת-הַדָּגָה, אֲשֶׁר-נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם, חִנָּם; אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים... "We remember the fish, which we were wont to eat in Egypt for nought; the cucumbers..." (Num. 11:5)

I think nowadays קישוא refers to a zucchini--though Wikipedia says that a synonym for מלפפון is קישוא הגינה ("zucchini of the garden")


Ah, that would be why I didn't remember it -- both because it's a different Hebrew word, and because (I'm embarrassed to admit) I may have been skimming a bit when I got to Numbers.


https://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/the-edge/.premium-1.2015430 is a short and deep study into קישוא and מלפפון in Hebrew. Seems that at the Chazal time קישוא was probably cucumber, and מלפפון was zucchini (or some squash, or in any case some variety that's usually cooked). But then at the late 19th century the first Hebrew-as-daily-language speakers picked these two words but crossed their reference. The learned linguistics tried for several decades to fix this, but in vain.


It was funny. I checked what the meaning of "mar" was, and I immediately recalled that Ruth asked to be called Mara, because she felt she had been dealt with bitterly. (Ruth 1:20)


Me too, except it was Naomi who said that, not Ruth.


You're absolutely right. I'm not sure why I said Ruth. Probably because I was thinking I found it in Ruth.


Ruth is a total old woman name (now), so I always mix them up.


Oops, I've selected "A bitter vegetarian". I don't know if it's because the association with vegetables or because of the stereotype but I find it funny.


I remember learning about Passover. מרור is a bitter vegetable, like arugula. Kale yeah!


Doesn't it also mean pickle??


no, that would be "מלפפון חמוץ"


Cucumber is now my favourite Hebrew word.


Cucumber which today would call them in biblical times zucchini


Does this mean pickle or literally a bitter cucumber


a bitter cucumber. pickle - מלפפון חמוץ (literally 'a sour cucumber')


Or maybe a cucumber whose life did not go as planned... Picked and pickled too soon. Or perhaps not picked at all and left to wither on the vine, ruminating upon what might have been.


So קישא also means cucumber?


no. there are many biblical names that we use this days but not the same (for example oat (I mean common oat) is a biblical name, but what we call this days oat isn't the same kind of cereal. the same goes for pepper (from hazal, not from the Torah), and the modern mandragora isn't the same flower as the biblical flower. that happens also with colors and the names of the stones that make up the priestly breastplate


חמוץ is the same that מר??


IIRC, מר means bitter, but חמוץ means sour.


What is the difference between מר and מריר?


the first is all bitter and the second is "bitter-ish".


Parallel : in Spanish " melocoton" means " a peach", certainly came from Arabic.


Not according to wiktionary:
Borrowed from Latin mālum cotōnĭum (with influence from Spanish melón), ultimately from Ancient Greek κυδώνιον (kudṓnion) μῆλον (mêlon).


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