Jul 10 2008

A bi gezunt!

by at 11:01 am

In recognition of our one and only commenter (so far), here’s an excerpt I enjoyed from Culture Smart! Switzerland: A Quick Guide to Customs & Etiquette:

Somewhat like the noisy Irish family in London who gave English the term “Hooligan,” the family name Bünzli provides the Swiss with a name that epitomizes “Swissness.” “Bünzli” can be summed up in the word conformist, even boring; someone who always does the correct thing and never rebels. Hardly a hooligan, but you get the point.

And in honor of that commenter, here’s the Wikipedia entry for “Hooliganism.” And here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the American version, “Joe Schmoe” (or is it “John Doe?”):

Joe Shmoe (also spelled Joe Schmoe or Joe Schmo) is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American English. It is used to identify the typical, everyday person who does not have any special status, frequently in contrast to some group. Adding a “Shm” to the beginning of a word is meant to diminish, negate, or dismiss an argument (for instance, “rain, shmain, we’ve got a game to play”). This process was adapted in English from the use of the “Shm” prefix, in Yiddish to dismiss something; as in fancy “shmancy”.

The Yiddish etymology (questionable, in my opinion—should I update the Wikipedia article to say that it’s not citing its sources?) reminds me of my favorite Yiddish joke:

Cancer? Cancer shmancer. A bi gezunt!

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A bi gezunt!”

  1. Laura Toguton 16 Aug 2008 at 5:52 pm

    CLEARLY I have to comment on the post that mentions Yiddish.

    I’m so excited for you guys! I can’t wait to hear about all your grand adventures!

  2. […] Anyway, for those social studies students out there, I have this fledgling theory that Bentham’s panopticon does really exist, in the form of a country named Switzerland.  Michel Foucault used the idea of the panopticon to describe disciplinary socities.  Obviously, the Swiss government is watching everyone class–why else all of the registrations and formalities?  Yet, there are hardly any policemen, and no one knows when he is being watched, so he has taught himself to follow all of these petty rules without even realizing he has done so.  And there you get the docile body, Bunzli. […]

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