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 words like schlockmeister (schlockmaster) "someone who specializes in cheap, shoddy products." The adjective, schlocky, is normal and only encourages an adverb, schlockily, in sentences like this one from TV Guide: "Jolted suspensefully by Claire's survival antics, the film, Tracks of a Killer, is aesthetically sloppy but schlockily diverting."
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."
Word History: Today's word is a youngster, first appearing in New York newspapers in 1915. It certainly is 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." The same root descended from Old Germanic to English as slay, to Icelandic as slá, and to Swedish as slå, the latter two meaning "to hit". English also has a verb, to slug, which means "to hit hard". It is a variant of an earlier verb, slog, also related to German schlagen, showing once again how efficiently English can scavenge many words from one over the years.
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