"the whole schlemiel"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 21 01:35:37 UTC 2009

At 8/20/2009 08:29 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>.and while "shlemihl" and "shlimazel" (spellings to be taken with a
>grain of coarse Kosher salt) are, um, bonified Yiddish words

Well, maybe schlemiel is also an eponym, if one includes the Bible
and perhaps also from another source.  For an authority, its
etymology in the OED is

[Yiddish, possibly ad. Heb. Shelumiel, name of a person in the Bible
(Num. i. 6) said by the Talmud to have met with an unhappy end; perh.
influenced by the name of the eponymous hero of A. von Chamisso's
Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814).]

Earliest quotation 1892.  I thought I had one from 1844 -- Nathaniel
Hawthorne, no less -- until Jesse informed me that since my instance
was "Peter Schlemiel" therefore as a proper name it was
iineligible.  Hawthorne read inerestingly.

>(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

True.  Must be in Rosten.


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