The Hebrew word סדר-Seder means, literally, order. This very widely-observed traditional Passover get-together is called a סדר mainly because the various pieces of the event take place in a particular sequence.
Since most Hebrew slang comes from Arabic, many people assume that בלגן also comes from that sister language. But the truth is that בלגן derives from Russian балаган (bah-lah-GAHN) meaning farce, which, in turn, derives from the Middle-Persian balakhaana, where it refers to an upper room where people would give theatrical performances – perhaps disruptions of the sense of order that comes with day-to-day life.
For example, a mother might walk into her child’s toy-strewn room and exclaim:
Or, taking this foreign word and plugging it into the passive-intensive פֻּעַל verb form, she might say:
Visit Ktzat Ivrit.
About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.
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