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  1. #1
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    schlemiel/ protagonist

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expressions in bold in the following sentence?

    The influence of Woody Allen's early films on Godse's movie is unmistakable, complete with a neurotic schlemiel protagonist who directly addresses the camera, a la "Annie Hall”.

    schlemiel = an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavors usually fail/ a dolt who is a habitual bungler

    protagonist = a person who backs a politician or a team/ the principal character in a work of fiction

    Thanks for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.
    Last edited by vil; 15-Jul-2010 at 13:34.

  2. #2
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: schlemiel/ protagonist

    It's the second definition of protagonist here.

  3. #3
    bertietheblue is offline Senior Member
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    Re: schlemiel/ protagonist

    I'd never heard 'schlemiel' before, but I immediately guessed it was a Yiddish word - a lot of Yiddish words used in English begin with sch/sh. Most are colloquial and many are used in AmEng only. Here are a few of the more common: schmaltz, schnozz (isn't 'schnozzle' also used to mean a nose?), schmuck, schlump, schlep, schlock, schmooze, shtum, shtick.

    All these words appear to be German of origin and usage in AmEng appears to date from the 1930-1960s, which is not surprising as this was a period of mass Jewish migration to the US to escape persecution in Europe.

    Here's an article you might find interesting:

    American Yiddish words 101

  4. #4
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Re: schlemiel/ protagonist

    A schlemiel isn't really a dolt/idiot -- he just bungles a lot of things and has bad luck.

    I would add that while many of these words have "gone mainstream" (often the not-so-nice onces, like schmuck), most are used within the Jewish community.

    I wouldn't hesitate to say "You've got some schmutz (dirt) on your shorts" to someone who was Jewish, but I wouldn't use it otherwise.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. #5
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    Ouisch is offline Key Member
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    Re: schlemiel/ protagonist

    My (Jewish) boss once explained to me that a schlemiel is a guy who always manages to spill his hot soup, and a schlimazel is the guy he spills it on.

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