By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 28, 2010

“I’ll speak dugri and tell you that you don’t have what it takes to be a singer” is something you might hear at an audition at the Tel Aviv Opera House. Dugri is slang for straight talk. Dugriut — the quality of being frank and even blunt — is an admirable trait in Israel. Sabras are known to eschew formalities and get straight to the point.

In Arabic, dugri means truthfulness to the facts, the opposite of a lie. Sociologist Tamar Katriel points out that in Hebrew dugri has come to mean truthfulness to one’s opinions even if they may rub the wrong way.

Dugri entered Arabic from Turkish, in which dogru means straight or correct. Over the centuries of Ottoman rule over much of the Middle East, many of its words seeped into Arabic.

There are authentic and ancient Hebrew words for sincerity and frankness, such as kenut. The brothers plea before Joseph, “Kenim anachnu”, “We are true men”. And yet dugri has earned its place in the Israeli lexicon as a specifically Israeli form of openness, bordering on bluntness. It is a type of compliment to your interlocutors that you assume that they can take it straight.

Last updated: 10:48am, January 28 2010