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    #1

    schlemiel

    Hello,

    I wanted to ask a question about a loanword from Yiddish, namely schlemiel (Yiddish: shlemil; first known use in English according to MW, online edition: 1892), meaning a habitual / unlucky bungler; a dolt, an inept clumsy person; an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavours usually fail. AHD or The Collins Dictionary give a stylistic indication of the word: slangy. (Sorry, I donīt use dictionaries requiring paid subscription, so my information is possibly limited...).

    Most teachers of English, I suppose or expect at least, wouldnīt wish the learners of English as a foreign language to use to word actively, but I would like to ask native speaker, whether they have ever heard of the word in spoken English or even used it themselves and whether it sounds really unusual or striking when used in modern English. Are there native speakers from some English speaking countries, who wouldnīt understand this at all and would have to look for the word in a dictionary?! I can imagine it could be more common just in some regions, say in New York City area…

    Thanks

    David

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: schlemiel

    I've never heard of it. There are a few Yiddish words/phrases used in BrE fairly frequently - "schlep" and "oy vey [iz mir]" to name the main two.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  2. probus's Avatar
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    #3
    I consider schlemiel to be a word of dialect. I have heard or seen it used at some time in my life, but very rarely. In Toronto, where I live, and certainly in New York and Los Angeles, many people would know the word. But I think many native speakers would not, and this is probaby rather regional as you suggest.

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    #4

    Re: schlemiel

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I consider schlemiel to be a word of dialect. I have heard or seen it used at some time in my life, but very rarely. In Toronto, where I live, and certainly in New York and Los Angeles, many people would know the word. But I think many native speakers would not, and this is probaby rather regional as you suggest.
    I agree that this word is mostly contained to the northeast coast of the US as it is there where Jewish immigrants settled in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I doubt if it would be heard much on the west coast. I live just south of Los Angeles and have never heard the word spoken in this area.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: schlemiel

    Quote Originally Posted by David Czech View Post
    Hello,

    I wanted to ask a question about a loanword from Yiddish, namely schlemiel (Yiddish: shlemil; first known use in English according to MW, online edition: 1892), meaning a habitual / unlucky bungler; a dolt, an inept clumsy person; an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavours usually fail. AHD or The Collins Dictionary give a stylistic indication of the word: slangy. (Sorry, I donīt use dictionaries requiring paid subscription, so my information is possibly limited...).

    Most teachers of English, I suppose or expect at least, wouldnīt wish the learners of English as a foreign language to use to word actively, but I would like to ask native speaker, whether they have ever heard of the word in spoken English or even used it themselves and whether it sounds really unusual or striking when used in modern English. Are there native speakers from some English speaking countries, who wouldnīt understand this at all and would have to look for the word in a dictionary?! I can imagine it could be more common just in some regions, say in New York City area…

    Thanks

    David
    I live in New York, and hear the word only occasionally. However, the word appeared in the opening number of Laverne and Shirley, a television sitcom (spun off from another show Happy Days) from 1976-1983. So the word received wide exposure, at least at that time.

    see here: Laverne and Shirley Theme song - YouTube

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