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Schlemiel and Schlimazel

Louie and I were talking about the wittiness of Yiddish words. What's the difference between a schlemiel and schlimazel? he said — pause— "A schlemiel spills soup on a Schlimazel."

From Wikipedia:

schlemiel: an inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish שלעמיל shlemil from Hebrew שלא מועיל "ineffective") …

schlimazel also schlemazl: a chronically unlucky person (שלימזל shlimazl, from Middle Dutch slimp 'crooked, bad'—akin to Middle High German slimp 'awry', or schlimm 'poor or lacking'—and Hebrew מזל mazzāl 'luck', cf. German Schlamassel) … In June 2004, Yiddish schlimazel was one of the ten non-English words that were voted hardest to translate by a British translation company.[10] In a classic Vaudeville skit, the schlemiel spills the soup into the schlimazel's lap.


Jeff Bragg said...

You left out the schlemazl part: the schlemazl appologizes to the schlemiel for getting on the way and being spilt upon.

Anonymous said...

have always loved the sound of words/different languages…. Words have a life/liberty all their own…..people’s clumsy foibles often sound less embarrassing when spoken in another language….

Anonymous said...

As a child of the '70s, who can forget that catchy theme song from the T.V. show Laverne & Shirley that begins the first line or so with "Schlemiel, Schlemazl ..." Thanks for the explanation!

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