Translatable But Debatable - B'Eravon Mugbal
Translatable but Debatable
(בערבון מוגבל (לא רק בע"מ
Explaining British punctuation, Oxford Dictionaries writes: “If an abbreviation consists of the first and last letters of a word, you don’t need to use a full stop at the end,” and its examples are “Mr”, “Ltd”, and “Dr”. Actually the abbreviation “Ltd” doesn’t consist of the first and last letters of the word, although it uses them. But maybe fine distinctions of terminology aren’t what the Oxford Dictionaries are about.
Anyway, if we’re lucky enough when we need to translate a company’s name from Hebrew to English, we’ll find that the company has an official English-language name of its own with בע"מ appearing as “Ltd”, or as “Ltd.” with a full stop, or maybe even as “Inc.” or “LLC” depending on where the company is registered. The worst is to find a company that styles itself LTD in all caps, as if the abbreviation stood for three words. Long-Term Debtors? Even if LTD in all caps comes officially from the company itself, I’d recommend making a correction.
But there’s another meaning of בערבון מוגבל where what’s limited is not a company’s financial liability but the intellectual or moral support of one or more people. An article about a manufacturer’s optimism regarding its new product, for example, says: כדאי לקחת את הדברים בערבון מוגבל. The Morfix online dictionary has a translation for that: “with a grain of salt.” Often the British say “with a pinch of salt” instead, but “grain” is closer to the original Latin cum grano salis, which Wiktionary defines as “with a bit of common sense and skepticism.” And of course the Gershwins’ well-known song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” uses “grain.”
I haven’t found another dictionary translation for the non-corporate בערבון מוגבל, even though the salt translation doesn’t work everywhere. I might say, for example, that I’m a fan of Greek music בערבון מוגבל. When it comes to some Greek music, like rebetiko, I can get bored pretty fast. That doesn’t mean I’m skeptical of the music in any way; I’m not a fan with a grain of salt. I could say in English that I’m a fan up to a point.
Suppose my neighbor Yosi believes in the giant impact hypothesis for the origin of the moon, but believes it בערבון מוגבל. You could say with reservations, but then — and even if you say with a grain of salt — there may a connotation that Yosi has specific counter-arguments in mind. Maybe he has none; maybe the theory simply doesn’t impress him as obviously correct. Then I think Yosi could better be said to believe to a degree, or to an extent, and it might be better phrasing for him than up to a point because we don’t know of a specific point where he encounters a specific obstacle to belief.
You’re invited to add your own pertinent thoughts in the space below, whether with flamboyant confidence or בערבון מוגבל. But if there’s a different word or phrase you’d like to discuss here, or see discussed — not relevant to בערבון מוגבל — please send your suggestion to me at and you’ll be duly credited if your idea is used.