Printable Version
Pronunciation: shmu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Imaginary selfless creatures shaped like bowling pins with chubby legs that only desire to fulfill the material needs of humans. 2. A person who is a pushover to do things for anyone.

Notes: The original shmoos live on air, are delicious to eat and are eager to be eaten. They have no bones, so there is no waste when eaten. They are gentle and playful, and their pelts make fine shoe leather. According to their creator, cartoonist Al Capp, they taste like chicken when fried, like steak, when baked, like catfish, when broiled. Raw, they taste like oysters on the half-shell. Although Capp used shmoon as the plural of today's Good Word, shmoos is now acceptable.

In Play: Anything I can do for you?As The Baltimore Sun put in 2002, "The Shmoo . . . was one of history's most brilliant Utopian satires": "If you need anything at all, go find yourself a shmoo." Only one major dictionary carries an entry for this word; the editors of the rest seem to think this was a nonce word associated only with the now defunct comic strip. But we still have it: "Linda Hande is such a shmoo, she will do anything you ask her."

Word History: It seems to be clear to everyone that shmo "jerk, sucker" preceded shmoo and not the other way around. Both first appeared in print in 1948 according to the Oxford English Dictionary: shmo in March of that year, shmoo on August 31 in the comic strip Li'l Abner by Al Capp. Shmo, or schmo, is a euphemism for schmuck, which has a shady meaning referring to the male genitals in Yiddish. It is easy to see how Capp would take shmo and simply add another O to it. It makes all the more sense because schmo and schmuck both have the secondary meaning "jerk, sucker", which became their only meaning in English. Schmuck comes from the German word meaning "jewelry", used in Yiddish in the sense of "the family jewels".

Dr. Goodword,

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