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Nov 24, 2010
This week's theme
Words from Yiddish

This week's words
schmeer
noodge
shamus
golem
schmegeggy
The Anagram Times
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

shamus

PRONUNCIATION:
(SHAH-muhs, SHAY-)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A private detective.
2. A police officer.

ETYMOLOGY:
Perhaps from Yiddish shames/shammes (sexton, a caretaker at a synagogue), from Hebrew shamash (servant). The spelling of the word has altered from the influence of the Celtic name Seamus (equivalent to James) as many police officers in the US at the time, especially in New York, were Irish. First recorded use: 1925.

USAGE:
"A private eye is expected to be whip-smart and tough as nails, but if the guy isn't likable, he's D.O.A. as a genre hero. So it's nice to note that Vlodek Elstrom, a shamus from a tumbledown town in northern Illinois has lost none of his initial appeal in its sequel."
Marilyn Stasio; A Need for Noir; The New York Times; Jan 23, 2009.

See more usage examples of shamus in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
You shall judge of a man by his foes as well as by his friends. -Joseph Conrad, novelist (1857-1924)

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