A strange dream woke me at 4:30 a.m. in a crummy motel in Grants, New Mexico. I was to have participated in a TV quiz show in which I would be presented with Hebrew idioms and would have to render them in English. But instead of preparing, I worried.
Just before the show, I was relieved to learn that the usual MC would not be there and that instead my friend Hana would be the MC. But at the last moment the usual MC showed up, and when the show began he asked me a simple question that stumped me.
The Hebrew idiom was “ota g’veret b’shinui aderet.” Of course I knew what it meant, but I was awakened by my inability to find an equivalent idiom in English.
I could translate it into Yiddish: Die zelbe dreck mit andere dekoratzie.
I could translate it into French: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
But try as I might, the English escaped me.
The Hebrew phrase became an earworm that bored into my brain, all the way to Albuquerque and then to Santa Fe. I had to wait until I got to the hotel in Santa Fe to look it up on the Morfix translation site, only to find the following lame translations: “same thing in a different guise, something that on the surface appears different but in reality is the same.”
Then I thought some more and came up with a phrase I liked: It’s old Aunt Tillie in new chantilly.
And with that matter taken care of, I could begin to explore Santa Fe.
Text copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.