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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:01 pm

• schmeer •

Pronunciation: shmeer • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A portion of something used as a daubed on or spread, as on a bagel. 2. Flattery, bribery, payola, graft. 3. Shebang, kit and caboodle, nine yards, and any other noun or noun phrase that may be preceded by the whole . . . , meaning "everything, the complete set of . . ."

Notes: Here is a word that is often used in the idiomatic expression "the whole schmear". If you want to spell it schmear, most English dictionaries will accept that spelling alongside that above. It is one of those lexical orphans we haven't yet decided how to spell. If you think it sounds a lot like smear, you're right (see Word History).

In Play: This word is heard most often in the phrase 'the whole schmeer': "When her architect son went into housing development, she financed the whole schmeer." The sense of 'grease the palm' arises with today's word, too: "He knew the schmeer was in with the police, so he pretty much took what he wanted as he walked through the store."

Word History: This is a new word, first emerging in print at the beginning of the 1960s. It is Yiddish shmir "spread", from shmirn "to grease, smear", borrowed from Middle High German smiren "to smear", today schmieren. The German word goes back to the same Proto-Germanic word as English smear, smerwjan "to spread grease on", also the source also of Danish smøre, Swedish smörja, Dutch smeren, and German schmieren "to smear". Old Norse smör "butter" is a cousin. They all originate in PIE smeru- "grease", which also produced Greek myron "unguent, balsam", Old Irish smi(u)r "marrow," Old English smeoru "fat, grease, ointment, lard", and Lithuanian smarsas "stench of burnt fat".
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Grand Panjandrum
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Re: Schmeer

Postby Slava » Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:44 pm

Does anyone else know the "whole" part as "geschmear"?
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George Kovac
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Re: Schmeer

Postby George Kovac » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:11 pm

Slava, I can't help you with "geschmear." Never heard it.

The proper spelling of "schmeer" is subject to differences of scholarly opinion.

Leo Rosten in "The Joys of Yiddish" (an essential addition to anyone's collection of dictionaries) spells the word "shmeer." The usually tolerant Mr. Rosten allows no alternative spellings. He goes on to cite seven distinct meanings/usages for the word, indicating it has a broader and richer role in American vernacular than the three definitions listed above.

But I still contend (see my comment to "smorgasbord" November 17, 2017) that the primary usage of "shmeer" is to order cream cheese with one's bagel at New York City delicatessens, as in an affirmative reply to "Yuhwanna shmeer with that?"
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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