Passing Phrase -

Kotel Kanim

Literally: A harvester of reeds
Idiomatically: Small minded /ignorant

This phrases is taken from the Aramaic "Katla Kanya" (Shabbat 95a). In Hebrew, "Kanim" ("kaneh" singular) are reeds, and kotel (pronounced like the Western Wall, but spelled differently) means to kill or destroy (Job 24:14). A "kotel chaidakim" is a disinfectant – literally a killer of bacteria; a "kotel yetushim" is what my kids call a mosquito zapper. Cutting down reeds for baskets was not exactly high tech. It was considered a job for one who had no other skills. So much so, that in the Talmud it was used as a semi-insult (Sanhedrin 33a): During a discussion on possible legal mistakes, one of the sages complained "What do you think, we are some reed cutters?" Today as then it is used in a similar vein:

אינו קוטל קנים - הוא למד באוניברסיטה. יהודה

"Yehudah aino kotel kanim - hu lamad be-universita." Judah is not ignorant - he studied at the university.

(No one bothered to mention that he studied Basket Weaving 101.)

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