crack in Hebrew (and Yiddish)

Shahar Shirtz shaharzilla at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 25 19:57:27 UTC 2008

Dear all,

I'm mailing this message on Eitan Grossman's request.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Eitan Grossman" <eitan.grossman at>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 22:22:56 +0300
Subject: crack in Hebrew (and Yiddish)

Dear all,
In Hebrew, contrary to what was said earlier, there are plenty of examples
of 'crack' used transitively, as a quick google search shows (with apologies
for the quick transliteration):

hi sadka et haagan/xulia b-amud ha-Sidra/et txuSat habitaxon Selanu  'she
cracked her pelvis/a spinal vertebra/our sense of security
kimat sadkti et hakereS 'I almost cracked the (skate)board'
sadakti et hasir lebiSul iti 'I cracked the slow-cooking pot'
sadakti sefel Seli 'I cracked a mug of mine'
sadakti et hamar'a 'I cracked the mirror'az kcat sadakta et haxukim 'so you
cracked the rules a little'
sadakta et libi 'you cracked my heart'
haruax sadka et sfatai 'the wind cracked my lips'
sadak et Samranut haortopedim baarec 'cracked the conservatism of the
orthopedists in Israel'
(the chick) sadak et klipat habeca
ani yisdok lexa taparcuf b'ima Seli Se ani kover otxa 'I'll crack your face,
I swear on my mother that I'll bury you!'

All exx and more easily googleable.

As to the extent to which one can do this volitionally, I would say that
it's only limited to the circumstances in which one could conceivably do
this and want to do it, but it's not excluded grammatically. Whether the
above examples are volitional or not, the following certainly is:

hamiSlaxat kvar gilta kama meubanim Sel trilobit kaaSer M. sadak et luax
hasela ... beezrat hapatiS Selo vegila et hatvi'a haSaaruriyatit  'the
mission (had) already discovered a few trilobyte fossiles, when M. cracked
the stone plate ... with his hammer and discovered the scandalous print.'

I think that the problem isn't linguistic here (at least in Hebrew), but
real-world pragmatics. In order to crack something and not break it
entirely, as well as to do it totally on purpose, one needs to have the
right tools and a certain amount of finesse, as well as a specific motive.

By the way, in Yiddish as opposed to German, knakn mit is definitely used
transitively for 'to crack'. Google results for this are particularly
entertaining and fairly plentiful (e.g., cracking the telephone with one's
accumulated nerves).

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