Kombina - Hebrew Slang “Thanks”, “toda” and “merci” are three different words that have the same signified meaning – a way of expressing gratitude. So are the different signifiers “love” “ahava” and “amour,” expressing affection. Though existing in different language systems, the three words have the same function, or more importantly, these different languages have a specific, unique way of expressing the same idea/sentiment/object.

But do all languages enable us to express all objects in reality? The answer must be “no”. Think of the numerous occasions in which we cannot avoid borrowing a word from another language to express exactly what we mean.

Today’s Exclusive term is the all-Israeli “kombina.” Is this Hebrew? But of course not. Like many other useful and even essential expressions in Israel, it is borrowed from another language. “Kombina” can be found in Esperanto, but also Russian and Bulgarian, with roughly the same basic meaning: a way to organize and get things easily.

In Israel this word, alongside this original meaning, has developed some other, slightly diverse meanings and can even perform as a verb (‘lekamben’). Kombina can be a way to get around things (not necessarily to “screw the system”), or to help someone (or oneself) get a promotion or other things easily/for free with their persuasive skills. It can also be read in a more negative manner, when using these same persuasive skills to mislead or to make someone act against their common sense (think of abuse of cheap work labor like foreign workers who do not speak the language and are fully dependent on their local employers, or the exploit of tourists who are willing to pay 10 times more than the regular price). “They made a kombina on my expense!”

One of the funniest uses of this word is its appearance on restaurant menus, especially for delivery and take away, as in one of the burger chains, who used the title Kombina their special meal for 4 or more people. You can get a kombina not just for junk food, though, but also “fancy” cuisine, like sushi combinations. Always trying!