Podcast shemozzle

Printable Version
Pronunciation: shê-mah-zêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A noisy row, a loud argument, a yelling match. 2. A mess, a confused, muddled situation, a shambles.

Notes: Don't be misled by the beginning of this word: men are just as likely to be involved in a shemozzle as a woman. You can, however, use the pronoun she as a mnemonic device for remembering how the word is spelled. Today's word is related to schlemiel "a jerk" and schlimazel "a loser with no luck", which is the same word as today's in a different guise. According to Leo Rosten (Hooray for Yiddish!), if a waiter spills the soup he is carrying, he is a schlemiel; the person who gets it down the neck is a schlimazel.

In Play: Basically, a shemozzle is a noisy argument: "When Lenny came home at 2 AM last night we heard a big shemozzle next door." However, it also works to express a shambles, a word sharing quite a few sound similarities, too: "We haven't had any big corporate shemozzles since the Enron-WorldCom era."

Word History: Today's Good Word entered British slang at the end of the 19th century as schlemozzel from Yiddish shlim mazel "rotten luck, a person with rotten luck". Shlim came to Yiddish from German schlimm "bad", and mozzle is Hebrew mazzal "luck". This latter word, spelled differently, also appears in the Yiddish toast, Mazel tov! from Hebrew mazzal tov "congratulations" from mazzal "luck" + Hebrew tov "good". So, whether you are a schlemiel or a schlimazel, or involved in a shemozzle, the staff at alphaDictionary wishes you, Mazel tov!

Dr. Goodword,

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