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Schmuck vs Prick

Posted by Bruce Kahl on September 26, 2003

In Reply to: Schmuck/shmuck/schmo/schmoe/shmo posted by Willy John Thomas on September 25, 2003

: : : : : I am currently watching a movie named "The Life of David Gale" in which Kevin Spacey's character states, roughly, that the word "schmuck" is a jewish word in reference to the part of the male penis discarded during circumcision. I checked archives and found no such reference. Any truth to such claim?

: : : : "Shmuck" is a Yiddish word meaning the whole penis.

: : : There's a little embedded Yiddish humor in the word, as it is derived from the German word for jewelry, or decoration. A decorative pendant ....

: : Schmuck and its contracted form schmo (to give them both the spellings I prefer) are by now in general English usage, and are correctly widely understood to mean someone who's a little stupid or a bit of an unwitting clown - I even noticed when I was in the US that some new reality TV show entitled Joe Schmoe was being advertised.

: : So, schmuck is a pretty mild insult. Its direct derivation is indeed from the Yiddish, but the Yiddish word is "schmock", being both a vulgar word for the whole penis as has been said, and also a strongly offensive insult - similar in tone to calling someone a "pr*ck" in English.

: I don't find being called 'a prick' offensive.

Here in the NY area there is a BIG difference in calling someone a prick vs calling someone a schmuck.
A schmuck is almost a sad sack as in: "Man, that poor schmuck loses his job AND his wife ran off with another guy".
On the other hand, a prick is a description of an undesirable person as in: "Man that guy Ashcroft is a real prick for poking fun of the librarians last week".