With the release of multiple movies featuring the superhero Wonder Woman, the Israeli press has changed the way it translates her name. Naomi Sokoloff comments:
Wonder Woman, on Israeli TV, was known as “Eyshet Ḥayil.” That’s a delightfully apt and inexact translation which draws on a phrase from the Bible. . . . In Proverbs 31, eyshet ḥayil is often translated as “a woman of valor.” However, the root that gives rise to the word ḥayil can refer to valor (in the sense of courage), valiance (in the sense of determination and heroism), or force, particularly military force (hence the implications of boldness, daring, audacity, and strength), as well as virtue (meaning decency, honor, goodness). . . . Since this text is traditionally sung or recited in Jewish households on Friday night (by the man of the house, to honor his wife), eyshet ḥayil inevitably carries connotations of piety and religious observance.
The discrepancy between that image and the image of a scantily clad Amazonian superhero makes for comic discordance. . . . No wonder, then, that the recent Hollywood Wonder Woman films starring the Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot are often referred to in the Israeli press as “Vunder Voman.” The transliteration from English helps the pop-culture icon make sense in a Hebrew-speaking milieu. . . .
Yet the option remains of going with what makes sense within Hebrew tradition, and simply enjoying the surplus of meaning that the phrase eyshet ḥayil generates. . . . Part of the power of modern spoken Hebrew—even in its everyday, most ordinary routines and in the setting of popular culture—is that it can spark a cluster of associations. It negotiates constantly between past and present, religious and secular spheres of meaning, Jewish culture and other influences. Today’s Hebrew encourages us to reconsider traditional texts, and it offers . . . words and phrases in which meanings collide, compete for attention, recombine, subsume, and reinterpret one another.