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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

To ‘Mangle’, or not to ‘Mangle’?

Part of the immigrant experience is contending with the ongoing problem known as ‘not completely understanding what the hell people are saying’.

I speak Hebrew fairly fluently, but for the past few weeks I've listened to friends and coworkers (not a mutually-exclusive list) asking one another about their plans to (and here is where the 'not-understanding' comes in) ‘mangle’.

Huh?

Mangle who? For what reason?

After asking around I finally figured out that ‘mangle’ is the slang word widely used to mean barbecuing. However, in typical Israeli fashion, nobody seemed to know the source of the odd word. Given how logical a language Hebrew normally is, I couldn’t easily accept this.

Therefore, in a completely unscientific survey (the methodology of which would probably give my brother-in-law, the lexicographer, fits) I asked a random sampling of the abovementioned friends and coworkers (e.g. the complete contents of my e-mail address book) where they thought the word 'mangle’ came from, and how it arrived at its current usage.

[Of course, this is a completely unfair question given that I couldn’t say where the word ‘Barbecue’ came from, even with a gun to my head.]

Anyway, the question was asked (or more correctly flushed into cyberspace), and I must say my friends and coworkers really pulled out all the stops trying to track down the answer.

Here are the top ten responses (I’ve always wanted to include a ‘top 10 list’ in a post) that I got from these amateur etymologists:

10. “It’s slang…slang words don’t need a source…they just ‘exist’.
9. “I think it’s Turkish for barbecue”
8. “It probably comes from Mongol, as in ‘Mongolian BBQ’”
7. “It’s an abbreviation of the Hebrew words meaning, ‘fan the embers’”
6. “I have no idea”
5. “I have no idea”
4. “I have no idea”
3. “I have no idea”
2. “I have no idea”

and, the #1 most common response given to this question:

1. “I have no idea”

(Note to self: I’m fairly certain that a truly witty top ten list should probably include ten unique items.)

In any event, the reason that the word 'mangle' has been bandied about endlessly over the past week or two is that ‘mangle’ is what nearly every Israeli family does on Israel Independence day. On this particular day, the country is awash in the smoky aroma of meat and vegetables being grilled over glowing coals. This isn’t the gas-powered Weber variety of grilling that I usually practice, mind you. Mangle refers to the wood, charcoal and pinecone-fueled activity carried out in national forests, city parks, and even the narrow grass strips of traffic islands.

And did the Bogner family mangle this year on Independence Day, you ask?

Why, yes. Yes we did.

However, rather than fight the crowds and traffic trying to find a few meters of open wilderness, we found a much more satisfying venue barely a kilometer from home (you like the way I’m catching on to the metric system?).

At the rural intersection near the entrance to our town, there is a small wood-framed building called the ‘Pina Hama’ (literally the ‘warm corner’). This is a place where volunteers from our town, and other neighboring communities, take turns providing free coffee, tea, punch, soda, cake, muffins, cookies, etc., to any and all soldiers who wander in. Since the Pina Hama is located at a heavily traveled junction, there are always a lot of hungry, thirsty, weary soldiers wandering in.

On Independence Day, the Pina Hama hosts an all day mangle for the soldiers who are unlucky enough to not have been given the day off. Zahava and I decided to take the kids over to spend a shift or two preparing food and drinks for the soldiers. I think a new Bogner family tradition has been born!

Starting at 10:30AM and continuing until after 6:00PM, there was a steady stream of jeeps, armored vehicles, hummers, and troop transport trucks pulling in and out of the Pina Hama. Hundreds of tired, dusty men and women stopped by for the mangle. A staggering quantity of burgers, dogs, kabobs, salads, lemonade, punch, homemade cakes, brownies and cookies, were served.

During the course of the day, radio calls came in from army units stationed on remote hilltops and manning distant checkpoints, requesting delivery. So, scores of boxed meals were prepared by the volunteer staff and sent off with passing soldiers.

I put on my lucky apron and manned one of the grills. Zahava (with Yonah providing moral support) cut pickles and prepared meals (she also baked some of the deserts). Ariella and Gilad acted as messengers, bringing the heaping pans of grilled meat to the people serving the soldiers, and packing the boxed meals.

All in all, it was the single most satisfying thing I have done since we moved here. These tired, sweaty boys and girls from every possible corner of the country, were so surprised and appreciative of the hospitality that they could barely comprehend why we would be thanking them. It was like a satisfying O Henry story, except everyone got to keep their hair!

By the end of the afternoon, we returned home…tired, filthy, and smelling like wood smoke. The kids were still keyed up from the excitement of the day, so we sent them out to play with friends. Zahava sat Yonah down to a nice bowl of sweet potato (some nice new pictures of the carnage in his photo album on the right), and I sat down next to an open window and enjoyed the smell of a thousand neighborhood mangles.

So, the question now is not, “what's a mangle”, but rather, “to mangle, or not to mangle next year?”

As far as I’m concerned, the answer to that question is as obvious as the place where we will be doing it.

Posted by David Bogner on April 28, 2004 | Permalink

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference To ‘Mangle’, or not to ‘Mangle’?:

» Mangling? from Somewhere on A1A...
I enjoy reading David Bognor's blog, Treppenwitz. He's another of Israel's immigrants from the USA whose insights I love to read. Today he's talking about a Hebrew slang word: Mangle... David has now added two new words to my vocabulary...... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2004 6:05:27 AM

» Mangling? from Somewhere on A1A...
I enjoy reading David Bognor's blog, Treppenwitz. He's another of Israel's immigrants from the USA whose insights I love to read. Today he's talking about a Hebrew slang word: Mangle... David has now added two new words to my vocabulary...... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2004 6:13:35 AM

» Mangling? from Somewhere on A1A...
I enjoy reading David Bognor's blog, Treppenwitz. He's another of Israel's immigrants from the USA whose insights I love to read. Today he's talking about a Hebrew slang word: Mangle... David has now added two new words to my vocabulary...... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 23, 2004 10:54:53 PM

» Mangling? from Somewhere on A1A...
I enjoy reading David Bognor's blog, Treppenwitz. He's another of Israel's immigrants from the USA whose insights I love to read. Today he's talking about a Hebrew slang word: Mangle... David has now added two new words to my vocabulary...... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 14, 2004 12:34:11 AM

Comments

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Kol HaKavod, David and family! What a wonderful new tradition you've started.

As far as the source of the word "mangle," if I can find my Dictionary of Hebrew Slang (now sorely out of date) I'll see if it's in there. It's probably in one of the kids rooms...wish me luck finding it! ;)

Posted by: jennifer | Apr 29, 2004 12:27:18 AM

I arrived at your blog via Somewhere on A1A. Great post! I love the idea about the "Pina Hama." Wish we Americans could do something similar for our soldiers.

Posted by: Gail | Apr 29, 2004 5:26:05 PM

Gail:

During WWII, US soldiers received quite a bit of good will and TLC from the public. From USO shows to 'care packages', nothing was too good for 'our boys'.

Unfortuntely, starting with Korea, and culminating with Vietnam, the US public began relating to the soldiers as agents of the government rather than as their friends and neighbors.

Now that there is no longer a draft, this distance is even more pronounced.

Sad.

Posted by: David | Apr 29, 2004 6:08:17 PM

Never did find the book, but my native hubby confirms that the source for mangle is Turkish.

Posted by: jennifer | Apr 29, 2004 11:14:56 PM

Thanks Jen! And please thank you husband for me.

Posted by: David | Apr 29, 2004 11:27:25 PM

I think the turkish etymology is correct. and BTW Did you Mangal "steak oaf"? ZMG

Posted by: Sam Ramras | Apr 30, 2004 6:37:57 AM

David, actually, if you want people to pronounce it correctly, you should probably spell it 'mongol.' When I first saw the word, I had no idea what you were taking about. Also, people use 'al ha aish.' ('on the fire' for you non-Hebrew speakers) We live on the first floor above the bank and stores and we have the use of the roof of the bank. Believe it or not, we still haven't 'mongoled' yet here! I go crazy over the smell when our neighbors (who share the roof with us) do so! Shabbat Shalom, David!!

Posted by: Chaya Eitan | Apr 30, 2004 5:42:49 PM

The word "barbecue", as all American westerners know, comes from the Mexican Spanish "barbacoa", referring to meat grilled over an open fire. Most cowboyish words in American English are derived from Mexican Spanish, since the Spanish (and later the Mexicans) originated the horse-and-cattle culture in the American Southwest. Other examples of Spanish cowboy words include: lariat, lasso, chaps (chapadero), bronco.

I'm not sure that barbacoa is a word of Spanish origin, and not a word derived from Nahuatl/Aztec roots; that -coa suffix appears in a lot of Nahuatl words.

And gas grilling is for men who can't start fires.

Posted by: Peter | May 3, 2004 10:34:19 PM

Well, there's the crux of our problem: I'm from Connecticut, not the west! :-)

Seriously, thanks for the info.

Also, I agree with your comment about gas grills, but should point out the following: I can start fires...in fact I love to start fires! (ask my wife)

However, I rarely have time to start a decent fire for cooking purposes. As a way around this, I have an iron smoker box inside the weber that I
fill with wet hickory chips whenever I grill. It aint the real thing...you don't have to convince me...but it tastes pretty good.

All the best (and again, I really appreciate the help with the origin of barbecue).

Posted by: David | May 5, 2004 2:47:01 PM

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