How do you pronounce שופרסל?

In my last post, I posed a probing question that elicited riveting debate in the comments-- how do you pronounce the name of the grocery store chain found on these boxes of dried fruit? Take a closer look:


In case anyone reading this doesn't understand Hebrew, this is a tricky question in part because Hebrew is written without most vowels and some letters-- including two in this store's name-- can make more than one sound.  ש can make a "sh" sound or an "s" sound, and פ can make a "p" sound or a "f" sound, so this word's pronunciation comes down to this: sh/s--oo/oh--p/f--a/e/i/o/u/silent--r--a/e/i/o/u/silent--s--a/e/i/o/u/silent--l. Are we confused yet? 

But, see, Israelis all know how words are pronounced, so the system never fails. You just have to be in the know. Right?

So, let's narrow the answer down to the choices proposed by this blog's astute readers in the comments:
Supersell (which wouldn't be weird at all by Israeli standards, Bryan-- I mean, we have a mall known as the Grand Kenyon, in one of the worst English-Hebrew puns I know!)
Shufersal (means "quality basket," supposedly)
Supersal ("Super" makes sense because Israelis call any grocery store the "super"-- see this post about grocery shopping like an Israeli-- and "sal" still means "basket")
Supersol (no idea why "sol" would make sense)

One of the easiest ways to find the answer to this question is to try out all the likely URLs for the grocery store chain. The one that gets to the correct site is the right answer. Let's try it out:

Oops. Except for "supersell," they all work.  

The answer to this trick question is that Israelis don't actually know how some of their words are pronounced. I most often hear people call this chain "supersal," but its name is technically "shufersal" and used to be "supersol." All those URLS redirect to this address, which expresses the brand confusion perfectly: http://www.shufersal.co.il/supersol_he/ 

In part, I suspect this name confusion lies in some kind of tax/anti-trust-lawsuit dodge: Who, us? But we're just a brand new chain, Shufersal. You must mean the old grocery story that used to try to drive all competitors out of the market, Supersol."Mark my words-- they'll be "Supersell" within a decade.

But the bottom line is that Israelis don't actually know how to say the name of this grocery store. In fact, you see Israelis mispronounce other words in fabulous ways too, especially when these words come from foreign languages. Anyone want to go bowel-ing with me? Then we can go get Whoffers at Boorger King! We can wash dishes in our Virlpool dishwasher! (And, as someone else in Benji Lovitt's hilarious Facebook feed pointed out, Israelis are still mourning the death of Parrah Paucett.)

So if you are struggling to read Hebrew without vowels, take heart: Israelis can't always read Hebrew either. :)


  1. Same goes in the UK for place names: 'Towcester' is pronounced 'Toaster' and 'Beaulieu' is 'Bewlee'. We get it wrong all the time.

  2. Haha, this makes me feel MUCH better about my challenges in trying to pronounce unfamiliar Hebrew without vowels :-). I was going to post 'Supersal' on the pronunciation, though, btw, so guess I'm not so bad at this ;-).

    Happy Tu B'Shevat! And at least wonderful nuts and dried fruit *last* a long time :-).

    Ima in America

  3. Supersal is the oldest supermarket brand in Israel, so your conspiracy theory doesn't work that well.

    I think it was originally intended as a kind of pun, playing with "super" and "shufra", which means something of high-quality. But it was quite crappy a pun to begin with (these words aren't really similar), and on top of that, "shufra" is actually Aramaic and only used in very high register in Hebrew. Or in other words, people just don't know this word.

  4. Actually the Burger King product should be "woofers" - that's what they were once :-)

  5. There's an English trend in Israel lately (or perhaps a bit more than a trend?) in the last decade that basically has many things written in English as well, from billboards (company names written in English) to food products like the ones that you've shown in this post. And it's not necessarily because Israelis are more fluent English speakers, but because its Western "glow" makes it seem much cooler and appealing to them. I think that Olim have had a harder time adjusting to life in Israel in the past, because Hebrew was much more widespread commercially (it was the early days of Hebrew and Zionism after all)..sorry I digressed, it just reminded me of this change that I don't know if most new Olim recognize.

  6. I don't have any basis of comparison, but I agree that English is everywhere in store names here. Even some stores with Hebrew names write these names in English... one of my favorites is Makor HaZol, which (written in fancy-looking letters) seems high-end until you realize that it means "Source of Cheap." :) Then there's the *Israeli* chain "הום סנטר"... can anyone figure that out?

    The funny thing is that Israelis LOVE puns, especially puns with English, which often don't work IN English because the sounds are different (but don't sound different to Israelis). Hmm... I smell a post coming on...

  7. "Supersol" is Anglo-Saxon ONLY. I don't know anybody who'd pronounce it like that. {Maybe Haredim?}

    It's kinda unlikely that Israelis would pronounce the Shin with a [s], because the Shin is a Sin only in specific, archaic words. No new words would be made with Shin representing the [s] sound, so if you don't recognise the word, chances are it's the [sh] sound.

    The Vav is unlikely to be [o], too; it's too close to שופר [shofar] like that, and as a name for a supermarket chain? . . . no. So it has to be [u].

    סל would never be [sel]. We only ever transliterate sale, not 'sell', and even that as סייל. And since it's סל, the word for 'basket', it's clearly that. {Also: shopping BASKET}

    So, we have [shu] and [sell] as certain!

    But, here it's tricky. The P/F. Here there's also the play with the 'super'. For years I called the chain 'Shupersal', and it sounded silly, until I heard it pronounced as [shufersal].

    re: Maccabbi streets: it's melra. {Mel'il: second-to-last syllable. Melra: last syllable. Easily remembered as 'the end is RA'}

    Speaking of puns, have a joke:

    ישראלי אחד מגיע לבית הלבן, ולהפתעתו הבית לא בדיוק לבן, אלא מלוכלך. בזמן הסיור, הקבוצה שלו פוגשת את הנשיא, והם יכולים לשאול שאלות. כשמגיע תור הישראלי לשאול שאלה, הוא אומר, "אתה יודע שהבית הלבן לא כל-כך לבן?", והנשיא אומר בתשובה, "יס איי דו".
    כשהוא חוזר לארץ הוא מספר לחברים שלו מה הוא אמר לנשיא, וכשהם שואלים מה הנשיא אמר בתשובה, הוא משיב "הוא אמר שיסיידו."


  8. Wait whut. It's not [sel], it's [sal]. Sorry, got confused.


  9. One last thing though, before you diss Hebrew for its vowels:

    bcs englsh mks so mch sens with vwls. That's how you get 'lead' and 'lead', 'through' and 'though', not to mention the 'th' that's two sounds, the 's' that can be 'sh' and 's', the 'ch' that can be 'chair', 'chrome', 'Bach', or even 'sh', the 'gh' that can be 'f' and nothing, the vowels that can be a thousand other vowels!

    AND you must admit that Hebrew is more phonetic, in the long run. Erdogan in Hebrew is simply ארדואן!

    . . . yeah. I'll take Hebrew spelling over English spelling every day.

    PS- Bowling isn't 'bowelling', it's bauling. There's no rounding of lips like English W.

    Last comment, I swear.


  10. Naatz, I love the joke! I was totally expecting it to be racist in some way based on the current White House jokes told by the Israelis I know, but it turned out to be cute. And leave as many comments as you want. It makes me feel special. :)

    I agree that Hebrew spelling without vowels actually works in general. I have no trouble reading Hebrew (even words I don't know) because the grammar makes sense... it just all breaks down when I come to English words. English itself makes no sense and I have no idea how the rest of the world learns it.

    I stand by "bowelling." It sounds much more violent so I enjoy imagining that that's what Israelis do in bowling alleys. :)

  11. I just want to say that my husband and I are *totally* with you on the bowelling :)
    Also, my personal favorite weird Israeli pronunciation is "capeteria." I don't know why, but that one always makes me chuckle. And I think that the new-ish coffee shop, Cuppa Joe/קפה ג'ו is a fantastic pun! I really like how the cuppa and קפה both work - they finally got one right!

  12. This post gives me so much hope! I thought it was just me that was confused with spelling and pronunciation of Hebrew. The fact that Israeli's sometimes get it wrong isWONDERFUL! Parrah Paucett has had me chuckling all morning:-)

  13. The name was actually changed from Supersal (as in, super basket) to Shufersal.

    The company filed a name change request with the Rasham Hataagidim a few years back

  14. This is all news to me. During all my time in Israel (term in high school, various trips, first year of Rabbinical school!), I seriously thought that it was Supersol. I feel rather foolish now...

  15. Oooh, Toby, good ones! I DEFINITELY need to write a post about Hebrew cross-language punning soon.

    Rivster, I don't think you're wrong... I think "supersol" is one of the three names people call this grocery store chain.

    Anonymous, any idea why they changed the name? Does my anti-trust-lawsuit-or-tax-dodge idea hold any weight?

  16. Supersol is the name of a kosher supermarket on the Upper West Side, in Manhattan.

  17. Guess that's why my daughter takes "ballette" every week...

  18. Balette-- that's a great one! My husband also suggested "capeteria" :)

  19. Here in Spain there is a large supermarket chain called 'SuperSol' super sun is it's english translation.

    I don't think there is any connection...

  20. this is a tricky one since the name itself is prounced mistakenly in hebrew. The origin of the name comes from Aramic work Shufra, שופרא, which is something good, somthing better. This was actually the original name and should be prounounced as Shufrasal, but within the years the name become mistakenly prounonuced as Super - Sal, and although it can be read with a ש, it is more likely to be written with ס.

  21. My born-Israeli friend told me something about the cellphone company, Selkum (instead of Cellcom). When I laughed and correct him, he said that he thinks all his friends pronounce it Selkum!

    He also mentioned once the sports player Livron James. (Instead of Lebron.)

    And I heard that people think Ferra Faucett is Perra Post.

  22. I saw "shufersal" on the side of one of their trucks. You know what? I refuse to believe it. They have got the pronunciation of their name wrong. I will continue to call it Supersal which is obviously the correct pronunciation.

    I think I'm getting the hang of this Israeli thing

  23. Isn't it "shofarsal"?!

  24. Their trucks and other things have "shufersal.com" printed on the side.

  25. Have you ever noticed the look on an Israeli's face when they read something, in Hebrish, that they're unfamiliar with? Make a point of it next time - it's kind of a jaw-drop, deer-in-the-headlights-stare along with a silent, "uuuuuuuhhhhhhhh" which I suspect is the same expression I have when I read these Hebrishisms. Then they confidently pronounce something. And if they have to try again, they're fine with that, whereas I get all mad at the "They" who decided we should be writing and reading without vowels.

  26. סלקום=
    אינטקום -
    "iinterkuum" (often)
    you also hear alot ehud olmert at "uulmert" cause Hebrew phonetics rules dictate that the O at beginning of word changes often to UU in middle, so applied... like "PESTIVAL" for festival, etc

  27. There's also "מסעדת קם סון הוד השרון" which is a Chinese restaurant. It's funny because it's "Come Soon" spelled in Hebrew, which also sounds a little Chinese. And their food is incredible.


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