Monday, May 23, 2011

Phrase of the Day: Chas v'Shalom

In short, "chas v'shalom" is a Hebrew phrase that means "G-d forbid." The Aruch HaShulchan says that it should be literally translated as "completely disgraced." ("Shalom," peace, literally means complete or whole.)

You will hear it peppered throughout normal speech. Here is an example:

"If I fail the bar exam, chas v'shalom, at least I get to take the review course again for free."
"Chas v'shalom if you can't come to the wedding, I'll see you next month."
"I'm not saying you're wrong, chas v'shalom! What I mean is..."
"If chas v'shalom a couple divorces..."
"During difficult situations, you might chas v'shalom question Hashem's fairness."

Here was a super cute example from Imamother:
Three year old to his two year old brother: "Isn't it great?! Grandma is going to bring me LOTS of gluesticks! That way, in case one chas v'shalom runs out, we'll have another one!"
And here's another funny example from Yahoo! Answers:
"You know, mom, I might not get into Yale..."
"Chas v'shalom!"

As you begin to see above, the phrase can be inserted anywhere in the sentence. It can even be used as its own sentence! I'll avoid boring you with describing the different grammatical structures you might see. As you hang out with more orthodox Jews, you will get a feel for how to use it yourself. Thankfully (because of its grammatical flexibility), it's pretty hard to mess up if you think of it as "G-d forbid!"

Note: It is equally acceptable to say "G-d forbid!" in English. Thankfully, American English speakers don't think you're weird for saying it either.

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