"the whole schlemiel"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 20 17:57:53 UTC 2009

At 1:38 PM -0400 8/20/09, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>Unless it's a NYC thing or some Seinfeldianism, it makes little sense to
>me too. "The whole shmear" just doesn't sound right... Of course, there
>are a lot of yidcorns out there that have little to do with their
>Yiddish origins. This could be one of them--kind of like the evolution
>of "mano a mano", which far too many American monolinguals think means
>"man to man". (And no, I did not mean to imply that "mano a mano" has
>anything to do with Yiddish ;-)
>    VS-)

That one we had a thread on a while back:


and even earlier it featured in Arnold's classic Language Log posting
on eggcorns (2004):

as well as earning an entry in Chris Waigl's eggcorn database--
--which includes "mano on mano" as well as the other telltale
variants I mentioned earlier (womano-a-womano, mano y mano).  As
Chris says, "The form mano-on-mano turns this covert eggcorn into an
overt one."


>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>At 11:23 AM -0500 8/20/09, Jim Parish wrote:
>>>Seen in an online discussion of health-care reform:
>>>"I don't get it. Even if some Democrats want the whole schlemiel...
>>>[laundry list of possible features], it still doesn't change the fact that
>>>none of these things are in this particular bill."
>>>Google gives about 1470 hits for "whole schlemiel"; some are spurious
>>>("the whole 'schlemiel, schlemazel' thing"), but most seem to use it in
>>>place of "the whole schmear" or something similar.
>>Or, to switch ethnicities, "the whole shebang".  At least I assume
>>that's Hibernian, although the AHD says origin unknown.  "The whole
>>enchilada" is possible semantically, but unlikely to be a blend
>>source phonologically.  "The whole shmear"?  Really?  That seems
>>impossible to me, but then I know what a shmear is, at least in New
>>York.  "The whole megilla", yes, but again the phonology is off.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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