"the whole schlemiel"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 20 17:50:18 UTC 2009

At 12:34 PM -0500 8/20/09, Jim Parish wrote:
>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>  "The whole shmear"?  Really?  That seems impossible
>>  to me, but then I know what a shmear is, at least in New York.
>I believe that I have heard and used "whole shmear" in this sense. In
>any case, one of the ghits includes this line:
>"'The whole schlemiel'? I think you mean 'the whole schmear'".
>Unfortunately, clicking on the link gives me a 404 error, but it's the fifth
>or sixth (depending on how you count) hit on "whole schlemiel" (quotes
>included), from the site www.hellinahandbasket.net.
OK, I think I can understand how the topping on one's bagel could be
metaphorically extended to cover the universe.  It's a bit like the
classic Zen hot dog order:  "Make me one with everything."

As for my earlier speculation on the ethnic origins of "shebang", the
OED not only agrees that it's o.o.o. but it provides the hint "N.
Amer. slang", and the earlier cites (including Whitman and Twain) are
indeed all U.S.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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