Nothing: שום דבר vs כלום

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Doug R

Member
English - Canada
The dictionary translates both the terms שום דבר and כלום as "nothing".
How do they differ in meaning/usage?
 
  • GeriReshef

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    The dictionary translates both the terms שום דבר and כלום as "nothing".
    How do they differ in meaning/usage?
    There is no difference, and both are used also in spoken language.
    The word כלום has an additional literary meaning that is rarely used.

    Additionally, both basically mean "something" but became somehow "nothing":
    In English you can either say "I don't have anything.." (anything ~= something) or "I have nothing..", and formulation like "I don't have nothing" is wrong due to the double negation. However a language has its own way to evolve, and the result is that in Hebrew something=nothing.. ;)
     
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    Abaye

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Additionally, both basically mean "something" but became somehow "nothing":
    In English you can either say "I don't have anything.." (anything ~= something) or "I have nothing..", and formulation like "I don't have nothing" is wrong due to the double negation. However a language has its own way to evolve, and the result is that in Hebrew something=nothing.. ;)
    Hebrew is similar to English as you need to negate כלום and שום דבר, e.g. in אין לי שום דבר. Colloquially one can answer מה קרה by שום דבר, but this is technically inaccurate, a more accurate answer would be לא קרה שום דבר.
     

    Doug R

    Member
    English - Canada
    Thanks. In ulpan class ages ago, the teacher told us that שום דבר (nothing) actually derives from the word for "garlic", and it's not just some coincidence.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Thanks. In ulpan class ages ago, the teacher told us that שום דבר (nothing) actually derives from the word for "garlic", and it's not just some coincidence.
    I don't think that's true. Rather, I think it's from the Aramaic form of the word שם meaning "name".
     

    bazq

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Thanks. In ulpan class ages ago, the teacher told us that שום דבר (nothing) actually derives from the word for "garlic", and it's not just some coincidence.
    Haha yeah, It's a common Israeli folk etymology I think. At least it has the slightest merit synchronically I guess, since Modern Hebrew has
    כקליפת השום "to be worthless/practically nothing" :)
     
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