• shtick •
Pronunciation: shtik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An entertainment routine, a gimmick or gag associated with someone in particular. 2. A sphere of interest or expertise, bailiwick.
Notes: Today's is another Yiddish word that seems to have stuck in English. It is still spelled variously: schtick and schtik are both reported by the Oxford English Dictionary. Our spelling above seems to be the dominant current orthography. This word is a lexical orphan with no derivational relatives.
In Play: The American comedian Jack Benny's schticks included his stinginess and lying about his age (always 39). Chico Marx's shtick was his fake Italian accent while his brother Harpo's was not speaking at all but rather honking a horn to get attention. Bud Abbot and Lou Costello did a famous baseball shtick (routine) called 'Who's on First?' The meaning of shtick has now expanded to No. 2 above: "I would love to help with your car, Lenny, but motors just aren't my shtick."
Word History: As already mentioned, today's Good Word is another contribution to English by the Yiddish language. Yiddish picked the word up from German Stück "piece" from Old High German stukki "crust, fragment". Where OHG stukki came from is something of a mystery on which we prefer not to speculate. It is not related to English stick despite the similarities between this word and Stück; coincidences do occur in language development. (For sure one of Mark Bailey's shticks is coming up with very Good Words like this one that he suggested for today.)