schmo (1943), from Kokomo (1947)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Dec 13 10:30:02 UTC 2004

The latest OED3 draft entry for "Joe Schmo" has a 1947 cite that Barry
Popik found last year in the Traverse City (Michigan) Record Eagle:

What's the earliest cite so far for just plain "schmo"?  OED hasn't
updated the entry yet and still has 1948.  MWCD11 doesn't do much better
with 1947.

Newspaperarchive has a cite from 1943 in a Joe Palooka comic strip,
appearing in a thought balloon for Joe's friend Jerry:

     (Reno) Nevada State Journal, September 26, 1943, p. 12
     "Joe Palooka" by Ham Fisher
     Jeepers-creepers...It's lonesome...Knobby' Joey gonna' they're both' I'm a lonesome schmo...I'm gonna
     git married!

Could the appearance of "schmo" in the "Joe Palooka" strip could have
contributed to the development of "Joe Schmo", I wonder?

I also came across a 1947 cite for "schmo from Kokomo" in Earl Wilson's
syndicated column (Wilson is quoting Big Harry, a "pusher" of "reefers"):

     Syracuse (NY) Herald Journal, September 11, 1947, p. 2
     "What's he, a schmo from Kokomo. or sumpin'? Yuz know I only sell
     in three."

-- Ben Zimmer

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