• schlock •
Pronunciation: shlahk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Anything that is cheap, shoddy, junky, inferior, of poor quality.
Notes: Like many Yiddish words entering English, this one strikes speakers as a little funny, which explains the word schlockmeister (schlockmaster) "someone who specializes in cheap, shoddy products." The adjective, "schlocky" is normal and only encourages the use of an adverb, "schlockily," in sentences like, "Jolted suspensefully by Claire's survival antics, the film [Tracks of a Killer] is aesthetically sloppy but schlockily diverting." —TVguide.com).
In Play: Put today's word in play by substituting it for "junk" when referring to shoddy work: "She calls it a French antique shop but it looks more like culture schlock." The advantage of today's word, of course, is that it sounds funny outside New York and New Jersey and is always a useful tool in prying smiles out of folks: "Shock radio was started by someone who accidentally mispronounced schlock radio" (just kidding).
Word History: Today's word is a youngster, first appearing in New York newspapers in 1915. It seems to be another contribution to English from Yiddish, this time, from shlak "stroke, apoplexy, major nuisance." It comes from German Schlag "stroke, blow, hit" from the verb schlagen "to hit or strike." This word comes from Middle High German slahen "to strike, hit" from Old High German slahan "hit, strike, kill." The same Old Germanic root came to English as "slay," and is akin to Icelandic "slá," Norwegian and Danish "slaa," and Swedish "slå."