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Cousins Mike & Murray’s Yiddish Primer #1: What’s A Schmuck?

So for those who missed it, I hosted The Cousins on Monday, and the boys decided to give me a lesson in Yiddish. Check out part of the segment below:

Nothing and I mean nothing, makes Cousin Mike and Cousin Murray happier than Yiddish insults. They use them with each other, they use them with their families (including Dave), and they use them on strangers. 

This is because Yiddish is one of the most expressive languages on earth. Originating as the language of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, it’s a kind of a mix of German and Hebrew with a smattering of Russian and Polish and other languages. Today it’s spoken mostly in Jewish communities in America and Israel and also in various former Russian republics, as well as on Sirius XM85 Radio from 9:00-10:00 a.m. EDT Monday through Friday. 

The best thing you can say about Yiddish is that it’s a delight, especially when used by a pair of wisecracking men in their 70s.

So regularly, I’ve decided to share the Wisdom of the Elders with the Stoolies so they can up their insult game because there are no better insults than those in Yiddish. 

Today’s Yiddish Word of the Week is Schmuck. 

What’s a Schmuck? Well, in Yiddish, technically it means one thing, but in actuality means something else. It literally means penis (schmok), but when applied to everyday conversation? It’s a stupid, foolish, obnoxious, contemptible or detestable person. A VERY heavy insult. 

It’s a tremendous insult revered in the Jewish circle. Legendary comic Jackie Mason wrote in his book Schmucks! (2007) that, "Schmuck is not just a word; it is a word with DNA. It has been filtered through thousands of years of a people's suffering. ... Throw the world Schmuck at a person, and it is an irretrievable dagger flung. It doesn't kill, but it wounds -- condemning the victim to the hell of trivialization."

Can you think of a word more castigating than to insult and trivialize at the same time? 

I wouldn’t say it’s a well-known word, although it was used in the name of a movie called Dinner for Schmucks a decade ago which should have been REALLY funny but wasn’t, despite Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifinakis, Jermaine Clement, Nick Kroll, Chris O'Dowd, Octavia Spencer, Larry Wilmore, Randall Park, and Andrea Savage. I mean by all accounts it should be the funniest movie of all time and it is not.

Anyway, I asked Cousin Mike to give me a couple of examples of who a schmuck is, and this is what he wrote. “Nancy Grace is a schmuck, she only thinks of herself and does not care about anybody else or who she hurts.” So Nancy Grace, according to Cousin Mike, is a schmuck.

Giphy Images.

Mike had another guy he felt is a schmuck: Harvey Weinstein is in actuality a “super schmuck.” And as he said on radio, “When you call somebody a schmuck it's not done lightly, I think.” So you KNOW he means it when he calls someone a super schmuck. 

So your goal this week is to use the word Schmuck in conversation because breaking out a word like this in an argument is like lobbing a nuke at an unsuspecting jerk.