[Note to Hebrew-speaking readers (as if you needed encouragement): please add examples, send corrections, emendations, elucidations, opinions, to my risk-loving attempt at explaining this unexplainably wonderful term. ]
The Hebrew term davka (דווקא) is usually an interjection, sometimes an expletive, that implies some kind of contrariness in action, either personal or impersonal:
1. personal - a display of personal power, usually indirect (passive-aggressive). For example:
· if you say tomato, I could דווקא say tomahto, just to be different, to be original, to annoy you, to see whether you're paying attention, to keep you on your toes, to get even for your previous annoying behavior towards me2. impersonal: events that occur contrary to what was expected. For example:
· A two-year-old is famous for her דווקא behavior
· I took an umbrella, so of course it דווקא didn't rainJoel Spolsky wrote in his blog, "No matter how debunked the Whorf theory [of linguistic determinism] is, I'm still convinced that Israelis are more likely to do things דווקא, simply because they have a word for it."
· Whenever I leave home early enough to be somewhere on time, there's דווקא a horrendous traffic jam, making me late
My guess is there may be a positive feedback loop involved, so that the word and the behavior encourage each other – a chicken-and-egg situation. The term wouldn't have come into common usage without the behavior it describes, and without said behavior being encouraged/needed/observed by the culture. And once they know such a pithy term, people somehow like to use it. But the term also applies to circumstances outside any individual's control, so it could be applied to other languages/cultures.
For a more thorough treatment of cultural differences between Americans and Israelis, read Border Crossings: American Interactions with Israelis by Lucy Shahar and David Kurz.