Posted by R. Berg on February 01, 2002
In Reply to: The Family Jewels posted by Michael on February 01, 2002
: : : I was wondering about this phrase as it used to describe male genitalia.
: : : For years I've wondered specifically if this might relate to the German word "Schmuck" meaning ornament, decoration or jewels and the Yiddish word "Schmuck" meaning penis. I understand that the Yiddish word is related to the word for "snake" - which would make sense.
: : : Anyone have any insights?
: : : Thanks,
: : : C
: : JEWELS - "Many of the terms for the male genitals refer to the value of these organs - thought by some to be man's most precious possessions. These include 'family jewels,' 'jewelry,' 'trinkets,' and 'treasure' (also used for the female genitals). Even the Yiddish term 'schmuck' is a pejorative use of the low German term for 'jewels' and implications of value shape such other euphemisms for male genitals as 'private property,' 'ladies' treasure,' and 'ladies' delight." From the "Wordsworth Book of Euphemism" by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver (Wordsworth Editions, Hertfordshire, 1995)
: : That reminds me of a scene from "My Favorite Year." Paraphrasing here. Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) accidentally goes into the Ladies Room. Lil (Selma Diamond) tells him, "This is for ladies only." He answers, "And this, mum, is also for ladies only. But sometimes I have to run a little water through it."
: In the US, the family jewels refer to the testicles. I also understand, in the US, that "Scmuck" is a large penis, while "Putz" is a small one. This is not necessarily the proper use of the the terms. The term, I was told, is Schmuck = "You're a big "d*ck - "Putz = "You're a little d*ck". This is a derogatory term when referring to, not their genital size, but their attitude.
These connotations aren't evident in Leo Rosten's discussions of the two words ("The Joys of Yiddish," McGraw-Hill, 1968):
"Literally, 'putz' is vulgar slang for 'penis.' But the vulgarism is rarely used to designate the member; the word 'shmuck' does that. As used, 'putz' is a term of contempt for: 1. A fool, an ass, a jerk. 2. A simpleton or yokel; an easy mark."
gives two meanings for "shmuck" (which he spells without the first "c"):
"1. (Obscene) Penis. . . . 2. (Obscene) A dope, a jerk, a boob; a clumsy, bumbling fellow."
I've never heard that the two words imply any difference in size, in the US or elsewhere.