Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Feb 26 17:08:23 UTC 2000


First, note that many speakers of American English do not know that putz =
penis (although they know a putz is not an admired person). (Personally, I
think it would be fun to win the Putz of the Year award.)

Second, you are not forgiven for very nearly personally insulting the first
tchotchke I see from my desk-site - a beautiful cow-horn from Belize
(actually British Honduras when it was acquired) carved to represent a
shark (or other large fish). A smaller piece of horn cut like a jagged fin
is glued in the back. I could charge big bucks for people to catch a
glimpse of stuff like this!

To return to what we are here for (but with an obvious reference to what is
going on), how do y'all pronounce "gee-gaw."


>I'm sorry; I didn't mean to say that ALL knicknacks are tchotckes, or that
>all the things you bring back from vacation are tchotchkes. Far from it!
>Let me put it this way: all tchotchkes are knicknacks, but not all
>knicknacks are tchotchkes. Tchochkes can be kitsch, but they aren't always
>and neither is everything that's kitsch a tchotchke. One person's
>"tchotchke" may very well be another person's "pretty" and vice-versa. But
>tchotchke is definitely perjorative (not nice) and strongly implies ugly
>and/or worthless junk. Again, what I think of as tchotchkes may not be
>your definition: if you absolutely love a small plastic seashell with the
>resort name written on it in glitter, that's fine and more power to you.
>You would not call that a tchotchke and I would. The point is, it's not a
>complementary term and so I'm confused as to why one would have an exhibit
>of these items. It's like having a "Putz of the Year" award: who'd want to
>win? (Note: "putz" = "penis", so colloquially it's equivalent to "dick.")
>For what it's worth, good knicknacks that aren't tchotchkes are just
>knicknacks (or statuettes or vases or figurines or anything else a
>non-Yiddish-familiar person might call them).
>I didn't mean to imply anything bad about anybody's taste.
>Diana Fingar

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list