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#120849 - 01/23/04 08:36 AM Re: Civilian
inselpeter Offline

Registered: 03/14/01
Posts: 2379
Loc: New York City
I'm looking for a word that would to non-military (not non-law enforcement). It is to be spoken by a Chandleresque private eye to a police detective. The PI is speaking of civilians in contrast to a bunch Marines who were killed earlier in the yarn.


Jackie: "schmuck" might or might not be offensive. It is most commonly used to mean 'jerk' or 'idiot' (which, I suppose, might also be offensive). Literally, it means 'penis,' and I think it must come from the German, 'Schmuck' (rhymes with 'hook') meaning 'jewelry,' so that it seems to be intended to be humorous in the demeaning humor of my tribe (Ashkenazi Jewery).

There is a joke about a guy who frequently visits New York and gets tired of long waits when he asks for his black Cadillac (dating the joke) from the garage. So, he decides to buy a camel. One day, he goes to the garage and asks for his camel and the attendant returns and tells him the camel has been stolen. When the police ask him whether the camel was male or female, the man replies that he's not sure, but he thinks it must be male. "Why do you think that?" say the police. "Because," says the man, "one day I was riding it down Fifth Avenue and somebody yelled, 'Hey, take a look at the schmuck on that camel."

#120850 - 01/23/04 08:38 AM Re: Schmuck
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
I've heard it's from the Polish, smok (or something like that).

Here's what AHD4 has to say about it:


BTW, I'm sticking with John Doe, at least until something better comes along. I don't think our Sam Spade is necessarily gonna use a military term unless some point has been made of his having been in recently.

#120851 - 01/23/04 09:03 AM Re: Schmuck
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
The OED quotes a first ref dating only from the 1890s and has less etymology than the AHD entry:



Also schmock (SmQk), shmock, shmuck. [Yiddish; originally a taboo-word meaning ‘penis’.]
A contemptible or objectionable person, an idiot. Hence "schmucky a., objectionable, obnoxious.

1892 I. Zangwill Childr. of Ghetto II. i. xvi. 45 Becky's private refusal to entertain the addresses of such a Shmuck.

#120852 - 01/23/04 09:16 AM Re: Civilian
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
It is most commonly used to mean 'jerk' or 'idiot' Well, that was my idea: I know that police talk among themselves as though they are superior to the general population, and I expect the military do too. That's why I chose derogatory terms. The only other possibility I can think of for your scenario is "the locals".

#120853 - 01/23/04 10:07 AM Re:Military
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
This is an oblique move (never happened here before HA!)
but may have some interest to a few :
or you can MSN "Military Lingo" and get a page full of references.

#120854 - 01/23/04 10:09 AM Re: shmok
jheem Offline

Registered: 01/06/04
Posts: 1475
Loc: California
There's at least three etymologies. The one you usually see is to connect it with German Schmuck 'ornament, decoration, jewels' (English smock is cognate with the German word); another one is in Kluge, from Slovenian smok 'fool'; and finally an origin in Slavic smok 'snake, dragon' (this is the one that the A-H gives). Of the two Yiddish dictionaries I have, neither Weinreich and Harvaky list the word. (This is weird since Harkavy isn't that squeamish and does list shmue 'cunt' and pots (pl. pets) 'penis; fool.) The vowel is problematic. I've always heard the word pronounced as /Sm@k/ and never /Smuk/, but then pots came into English as /p@ts/, too. shmuts 'dirt, filth' came in as /Smuts/, so I think that the Yiddish word should be shmok. I'm just not sure, but I lean toward the 'snake, dragon' rather than the 'jewels' etymology.

#120855 - 01/23/04 12:24 PM Re: Civilian
Father Steve Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
Law enforcement officers hereabouts frequently refer to non-commissioned (in the police department), non-defendant persons as "citizens." This, oddly, is done without regard to the actual citizenship of the person to whom the term is applied. It carries the sense of not us (cops), not them (defendants/arrestees) but the others (citizens).

#120856 - 01/23/04 12:53 PM Re: shmok
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Schmuck 'ornament, decoration, jewels' (English smock is cognate with the German word

in the case of the english smock, ornament is definately part of the sense of the word.

now days we think of a smock as something like a lab coat or house dress.. but smocks get there name from smocking (a kind of ornamental embroidery.)

trades of all kinds wore smocks. Yowmen would wear smocks.

a smock is made by taking squares and rectangle of cloth, gathering them, embroidering the gathers with a zigzag stitch (and perhaps ornamental embroidery as well) and joining the peices. the result is a short coat that fits close around the shoulders but has a full body, and -a very elastic yoke and upper sleeve, that would not rip under stress, but would stretch.

smocking is very elastic, and a coat make of smocking would fit comfortable close to the shoulders, and upper arms, (and at the cuffs of the sleeves) but the material would be elastic, allowing for a free range of movement. smocked pockets would have 'snug tops' which would help secure the contents.

workmen would wear smocks as badges of office almost. smocks were a compromise between the tailored clothing of the rich (which wasn't really suitable for work) and the shapeless (often knit) clothing of the very poor. (see the 'garb/habit' of franciscan monks)

some nuns habits had 'plain' smocking (black on black) in the day when nuns all wore traditional habits (Ursulines had smocking on there sleeves, and on the yoke of the dress)

my other obsession

#120857 - 01/23/04 01:04 PM Re: shmok
jheem Offline

Registered: 01/06/04
Posts: 1475
Loc: California
Thanks, Of Troy. It seems to me that European tradesmen still wear smocks. Took a look-see at the German for smock: das Kittel 'gown, overall, pinafore', Arbeitskittel 'smock, overall', Malerkittel '(painter's) smock'. I also like the heavy corduroy work pants that some European laborers wear. (Not a smock, just a free asscociation.)

#120858 - 01/23/04 02:06 PM smock smock smock smock smock
Sparteye Offline

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1773
.... I just like the way it sounds.


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