"the whole schlemiel"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Aug 21 00:29:00 UTC 2009

At 10:57 PM +0200 8/20/09, Julia Achenbach wrote:
>The term/name 'schlemiel' rings a bell (please do not break out into
>laughter): schlemiel is a character on Sesame Street - in the English
>version I believe he was simply called the 'Salesman'.
>He was the one who always wore a trench coat and tried to sell 'an A' or
>other things to Ernie.
>Maybe the person using this term was referring to this character (and
>maybe his Yiddish origin), implying that the reform, in his opinion, is
>somewhat dubious.
..and while "shlemihl" and "shlimazel" (spellings to be taken with a
grain of coarse Kosher salt) are, um, bonified Yiddish words
(according to one definition I've often heard, the former is the
waiter who spills the soup on the customer, while the latter is the
spillee), another member of this family, "shmendrik", is an eponym,
appearing first as the title "hero" of a comic operetta from the late
19th century, and then passing into the (Yiddish) language from him.
Apparently the operetta itself, as recounted at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmendrik, was a Yiddicization of a
Rumanian original, which I assume did not contain a character named
Shmendrik (or even Simirindescu)...


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

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