Friday, 15 May 2009

schmutter, slok, bippy

In the introduction to my edition of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, Harry Harrison writes:

New words, grammar, and slang abound. An etymologist might stop and nod his head at a neologism like slok, noting its similarity to the Yiddish schloch (as bippy came from pippich or, in Britain, schmutter, a garment, from schmata, a rag).

schmutter is from שמאַטע shmate "rag", borrowed from Polish szmata "rag".

slok is used in the line "You God damned eater of slok." There is שלאַג shlag "stroke, blow" (cognate with German Schlag and English slay) - this is apparently the origin of schlock. There's also German Schlacke "dross" (cf English slag), which seems like a more likely origin for slok, but I can't find a corresponding Yiddish word.

By pippich I guess Harrison means פופיק pupik "belly button", which I assume is borrowed from Polish pępek. However, the origin of bippy is "unknown" according to the OED.


Cailliomachas said...

"Shlock, schlak, schlock. Rhymes with 'clock' is both an adjective and a noun. From German: Schlag: a 'blow'; perhaps the Yiddish means merchandise that has been 'knocked around.'" Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish s.v.

goofy said...

I think that word is a variant of "shlag" so it's not the word I'm looking for. I'm wondering if there's a Yiddish word that's related to German "Schlacke".

Cailliomachas said...

I don’t know if this helps. Rosten equates schlack, schlag, schlok, schlock, schlack, and schlock as, it appears, does Gene Bluestein in Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American life and literature (see under shlak). Both give meanings such as shoddy or cheap article or merchandise to the word. Rosten’s 4th meaning is interesting: “A shrew, a whining wife, a yenta – and a slob, to boot. ‘His beloved? There’s a shlock of a girl.’” In this sense – yi: שלאק < de: Schlacke. Beyond this I cannot go.

Adam Roberts Project said...

I always thought 'bippy' was euphemistic for 'arse' (as in: 'you bet your bippy', or 'you bet your sweet bippy'). The derivation, then, would be 'b' (for bum, bottom, buttocks) inoculated via a generic diminutive suffix. Course, I could be completely wrong about this.

goofy said...

Thanks, Cailliomachas! That about clears it up.

Adam: I like that explanation more than Harry Harrison's.

Ms G said...

You have to read "Born to Kvetch"