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Disappearing Words


June 28, 2010

Some people think that if you begin a word with the prefix “schm-,” that word then disappears and becomes irrelevant.

Children are masters of this technique:

“You need to get dressed for your baseball game – and don’t forget your athletic cup!”

“Cup, schmup! How are they going to know if I’m wearing one anyway!”

I didn’t say they were logical, merely masters of making words irrelevant.

Who started this practice of making words irrelevant? I’m not exactly sure. I suspect it may have been a Jewish celebrity, though. It had to be someone who was famous and influential or it would have never caught on. And Jewish people are genius at inventing words that start with “schm-.”

A Catholic would have used something Latin. Perhaps “cup, et tu-up!” (Et tu is the only Latin phrase I know.)

A Baptist would have come up with something over the top, like: “cup, hallelujah-up.” We are fortunate, indeed, that it wasn’t a famous Baptist who started the disappearing word trend. It could become difficult with longer words like: “Catastrophe, Hallellujah-astrophe!”

This word suggests that it might have been many a visionary’s last words, because, of course, “schm-“ is almost always preceded by words of warning from a sane person. Just because you make a word disappear, does not mean that the imminent threat has disappeared as well. Threat, schmeat!

If “schm-“ simply replaces the first letter or two of a word, then was exactly is meant when a person is called a schmuck? One wonders what “schm-“ is replacing here. Ah, I know! It probably replaces the letter “L” for luck.

… What did you think?

The origin of the word schmooze is unclear as well. We know it is slang and that you do it at cocktail parties. Someone probably said, “Honey, aren’t you drinking a little too much booze?”

“Booze, schmooze!”

By this we can conclude that “schmoozing” means talking to people while drunk.

Schmaltz is another “schm-“ word which could have also originated with a party – a formal ball, perhaps.

“Honey, you are supposed to be doing a waltz, not the Electric Slide.”

“Waltz, schmaltz!”

I think we can safely assume that there was alcohol involved in this instance as well.

“Have you ever schmeered anyone in a game of skill?”

“Honey, beer is not allowed on the pitcher’s mound!”

“Beer, schmeer!”

I think we are seeing a pattern here…

Maybe it wasn’t a Jewish celebrity, after all. Maybe it was a celebrity that did a lot of drinking at parties.


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