question of the weekend: What does the word ‘schmuck’ mean to you?
The title of Dinner for Schmucks has prompted some debate among a few friends of mine, who are astonished that the studio is actually using that word in their title, because to them it has connotations of naughtiness or, worse, because it’s naughty but also not appropriate for the story the film appears to be telling. I told them that not everyone speaks Yiddish like a Talmudic scholar, and that to the average American, schmuck means something like jerk, idiot, asshole… Perhaps to some schmuck might a more specific kind of jerk, idiot, or asshole, but that would be the extent of it. And if anyone finds it naughty, it’s because it rhymes with fuck, not because it means, basically, prick, in either the metaphoric or the literal sense.
But perhaps I’m wrong about this. Perhaps American moviegoers do have a more specific sense of what schmuck means, and perhaps more people than I realize are just as shocked by the title.
I’m curious, too, to hear what English speakers outside the U.S. think of the word. Because American slang has been greatly influenced by Yiddish, probably to a much greater extent than in other English-speaking countries. Which led to a tangent on the issue: If/when Dinner for Schmucks is released in other countries — it’s got a full slate of regular new releases through the rest of the year — will the title change? What about if/when it opens in Israel?
So: What does the word ‘schmuck’ mean to you? Don’t run to a dictionary or to your Jewish grandfather from the Old Country: just your own first impressions of the word.
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)
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