Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On the Third Time, I Scream.

The title of this post doesn't really make that much sense, does it?

Well, there's an Israeli Urban legend going around that tries to explain the popular Hebrew expression, פעם שלישית, גלידה -- "Third Time [I see you, you owe me an] Ice Cream".

What this means is that if you see the same person twice in a day (someone you usually don't see), then you throw this expression at them, that the next the 2 of you meet, the "ice cream is on them."

Curiously, on my way to work the other day, one of my trempistim (hitchhikers) informed me that the origin of this odd expression is based on an English expression, "First time I say, Second time I yell, On the Third Time I Scream." (get it? I cream...)

That was way too odd -- since I've never heard that expression in English. The closest I ever heard wasת "Third time's a charm" -- yet my hitchhiker is convinced this is fact. Checking my newly purchased Hebrew slang dictionary at home, it provided the exact same reason. Yet I'm convinced it's an urban legend, because the only place on the entire internet that I've seen this phrase in English -- is on Hebrew websites that advocate this etymology.

Our Hebrew Language Detective Blogger friend, "Balashon" is equally perplexed as to the origin of the expression.

Regardless, you too can now use the expression proudly...and I wish you luck in extorting ice-cream out of your friends.

hat-tip: The Shabster

Inspiration: The "Our Shiputzim" blog which also discusses Israeli slang (examples here, here, here, etc...) -- though less academically than Balashon. Both are mandatory reading!

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Michal Hershtal said...

Well, there is that old song, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." The 3rd phrase is ice cream...maybe that's where they got it?

Commenter Abbi said...

I've heard that the origin is not an English idiom, but a german one:

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi; The German idiom doesn't mention ice-cream.

And the urban legend I mentioned is quite apparent in the Wikipedia article -- where Rubik Rosenthal is quoted as saying its a British expression...though I've never heard/seen that expression anywhere.

(It's Rosenthal's latest book I got the other day).

British Readers: Help us out!

If you aren't busy being a Mossad assassin, have you ever used/heard of the expression, "If I see you next time, I'll scream" ?

annie said...

I'm an ex-Brit and I've never heard the expression. Nor the American one "third time's a charm" for that matter either. In England we say "third time lucky" - which is the same meaning but not the same terminology as the Yanks.

Nothing about ice cream though.

yoni r. said...


What's more lucky than someone buying you ice cream? (Unless a Mossad agent has hidden a bomb in it?)

Balashon said...

It could be that this book might show us the origin:

But Google's snippet view isn't showing the whole text. Anyone have access to it?

ProfK said...

Checked a whole slew of the "bibles" on American English and it definitely is not American in origin--it appears nowhere in any of them, not even the dictionary of slang. Can't recall ever seeing it in print here either.

Mrs. S. said...

mandatory reading
Aw, gee, shucks. {blushes modestly}

Soccer Dad said...

Seems like a variation on Goldfinger's

First time is happenstance. Second time is coincidence. Third time is time for enemy action. (or something like that.)

Dave said...

This could be from the mandate days. I remember coming across a Hebrew phrasebook for British soldiers and there was a bit that went (paraphrasing)1) Evenin' all, what's all this 'ere then. 2) Move on then - I SAID MOVE ON 3) [Good] You didn't move on so I'm now hitting you with my truncheon. (The "Good" is reading between the lines)

Anonymous said...

Along those lines - I was at the supermarket the other day and wanted to say 'third times a charm' but couldn't translate into Hebrew. The cashier suggested shalosh b'echad...but I think she thought I meant three for one deal? Any ideas?

uriyo said...

Rosenthal later admitted that there's no English expression that says "Third time I scream," but he suggested that there may be an English expression that says "If I see you next time I'll scream." See the first teguvah in

Unfortunately, that expression is just as nonexistent as the first one.

However, there is indeed an English expression that isn't too far off: "If _____ one more time I'll scream." I googled the phrase "more time I'll scream" and got over a million results. (Some write it with "1" instead of "one.")

Presumably the Israelis came up with the part about the third time, based on the rule of three. That's the idea that "things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things." See

To sum up, one could suggest that "Pa'am shelisheet gelidah" is based on combining the rule of three with "one more time I'll scream."

Immanuel said...

Interesting...I lived in Israel for 10 years from 81-91 and nevr encountered the Hebrew expression pa'am shlisht glidah...and crtainly I've never encountered the English phrase it is supposdly derived from...its certainly not common in South African English, where I'm from, and nor have I ever heard it in Australia, where I currently live.

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