Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Wed Jun 30 08:51:53 UTC 1999

There is no question that the affective use of <shm-> originated in
Yiddish. There is an interesting discussion of some early occurrences
in Western Yiddish in Max Weinreich's _History of the Yiddish
Language_ (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 623-24.  I believe that
David Gold and other people have added to the literature on <shm->,
but I don't have references off-hand.

Jim Rader

> [In the context of the joke quoted, a colleague asked me the question below, and
> here's my partial answer. Any insights?]
> German and Yiddish change the historical /s/ to "sh" when it's followed by a
> consonant in the same syllable. I don't know if the "(C(C))Vxx, shmVxx"
> construction originated in Yiddish or in Yiddish-influenced English... but I
> know where to ask!
> -- Mark
> >>>
> SANTASHMANTA n. The explanation Jewish children get for when they celebrate
> Hannukah while the rest of humanity celebrates Christmas.
> <<<
> It recently occurred to me to wonder whether this "Santa, Shmanta" idiom (I
> can't think of a good generic way to represent it, but substitute "Oedipus,
> Shmedipus, so long as you love your mother," or from Tom Lehrer, "Ah, nazi,
> shmazi, says Wehner von Braun," etc. etc.) actually occurs in Yiddish, or if it
> originated in English?
> It seems like Yiddish might have too many words already beginning with shm- for
> it to be very useful, while it works very well in English where that sound
> combination is rare ... do you have any insight into this?

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