Tom Kysilko pds at VISI.COM
Tue Feb 29 03:05:25 UTC 2000

Shmatte is literally rags.  But when did literalism stop a competent
speaker of Yiddish and English?  Rosten gives rags as meaning 1; cheap junk
as 2; a person unworthy of respect as 3; a woman of weak character or evil
ways (it had to be there) as 4; and sycophant as 5.  I have no way of
confirming this, but my sense of the word has been that in this country it
was used primarily in the garment business to refer to cheap, inferior
goods, such as those of the competition.

I no longer recall what Hawkeye was referring to.  Could have been the mess
hall food, or the tchotchkes offered by the local Korean peddler, or the
hooch at Rosie's.  I do remember that the whole epithet was "bilius
shmatte", a memorable juxtapostion.

--Tom Kysilko

At 06:35 PM 2/28/2000 -0500, Dennis wrote:
>Larry is right (even without his lexicon). Shmatte is rags, maybe torn
>>At 4:18 PM -0600 2/28/00, Tom Kysilko wrote:
>>>Andrea wrote:
>>>> For a pejorative Yiddish term for cheap
>>>>trinkets/souvenirs/gee-gaws, I would use "schlock".
>>>There's also "shmatte".  The word is probably not so well-known as schlock,
>>>but it was put by the writers of M*A*S*H (the TV show) into the mouth of
>>>Hawkeye Pierce in one episode.
>>Isn't "shmatte" more like 'rags', i.e. for clothes in not particularly mint
>>Larry (with no Yiddish dictionary handy, forced to rely on his somewhat
>>meager passive competence)
>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

  Tom Kysilko        Practical Data Services
  pds at       Saint Paul MN USA

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