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חבל על הזמן

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by airelibre, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    How did this phrase go from meaning 'a waste of time' to meaning that something is really good in slang usage? I know in English we use negative words such as 'sick' and 'wicked' for something cool. Can a whole phrase do the same thing? It just seems a drastic change.
  2. ystab Senior Member

    As I see it: that thing so good that it's a waste of time talking about it. Actually, it is not the first word, or phrase, in Hebrew that has two opposite meanings. Check out the verb לְקַלֵּס, which means to praise on the one hand, and to curse on the other.
  3. origumi Senior Member

    This is a different story, of a native Hebrew vs. Greek originated word which happen to have the same sound.
  4. Stifled Junior Member

    I think it may sound like it's leaning towards negative connotation than it really is. I agree with ystab about the phrase stating that there is nothing left
    to add here, any other comment you may say will be a total waste of time, we've already said it all. (even though we hardly said it all but the other
    party got the gist of it, asuming he was familiar with the phrase). On that matter, how would you rationalize "shut up!" as cry of disbelief or astonishment,
    it's way more quirky than חבל על הזמן, wouldn't you say?
  5. arielipi Senior Member

    I think its origin is from yiddish, where there it was a good thing, and when translated it can be both.
  6. amikama

    amikama sordomodo

    Maybe the original phrase was borrowed from Yiddish. But its positive meaning is relatively new (since 1990's I believe), so I don't think it was Yiddish influence.
  7. OsehAlyah Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    English(USA), Russian
    עכשיו אני כוכבת שחבל על הזמן
    ואתה נשארת כזה קטן
    הייתי חניכה צנועה בבני עקיבא
    ועכשיו כולם קוראים לי דיווה

    Gotta love Kobi Oz :D :)
  8. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    English has "ridiculous". On the other side of the spectrum, French has "genial" for not great a situation.
    I think it's a quite common thing !
  9. C_J Junior Member

    I always thought that the positive meaning of this expression comes from something that is implied but not said i.e. "הבחורה הזאת [כל-כך טובה], חבל על הזמן [שתבזבז על אחרות" - this girl [is so good], that it's a pity to waste time [on others]"
    Just like in "הבחורה הזאת, [כל-כך טובה ש] אין דברים כאלה [טובים"...

    Am I the only one that thinks this way?

    BTW I think using the extreme opposite to emphasise a property is a common thing to all languages (but it' usually restricted to slang).
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012

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