'0Re: tchotchkes

Diana Sheron Fingar df632694 at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Tue Feb 29 01:41:08 UTC 2000

On Mon, 28 Feb 2000 11:32:23 -0800 "A. Vine" <avine at ENG.SUN.COM> wrote:

> As someone who was raised in a household which threw in the occasional
> term or phrase, I can say that "tchotchke" is not pejorative.

For what it's worth, I was raised in a practicing Jewish household
(Reform Jew, not Orthodox or Conservative), and I, my mother, and her
mother (who spoke Yiddish well into her adulthood) all use tchotchke
for a very particular type of junk. All the previously cited definitons
from newspapers and such sound like a misuse of the work to me,
possibly stemming from incomplete knowledge of Yiddish. Incidentally,
this is one of the words I use that I was surprised to learn
was Yiddish. I thought it was English. (Of course, I thought "schpritz"
["a small portion of something foamy that comes in an aeresol can" or
"the act of getting such an item out of the aeresol can"] was also
English until last Thanksgiving. Undoubtedly this is not the original
meaning of schpritz, but other Jewish friends have understood it
perfectly well.) I will admit that this may be a regional use of the
word. My mother's family is all from Chicago, if that helps. However, a
Jewish friend of my mother's from New York has also spontaneously used
"tchotchkes" in the perjorative sense my family associates with the

Many people use smatterings of Yiddish without really understanding
all the nuances of certain words, as seems to have happened in the
newspapers. (Ms. Vine, I do not mean to insult you at all, particularly
not if you are also Jewish.) I agree totally with "kitsch" and mostly
with "schlock" (ie,"crap" + sleaze) -- but schlock can be applied to
anything, while tchotchke only applies to certain things.

I still say it's a strange choice of word to describe an exhibit.

Diana Fingar

Sorry, I know I said I wouldn't answer anything else about tchotchkes, but
I really do know what I'm talking about.

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