tchotchke
n. a trinket or knickknack

You just have to love Yiddish words—bupkis (lit. “beans” or perhaps “goat droppings”; fig. “nothing”), schmuck (from shmok (שמאָק), lit. “penis”; fig. a general pejorative), klutz, schlep, and schlong are all common to SAE now—and this one is no different, though I hadn’t heard of it until now.

Pronounced CHOCH-kuh, this word came to us late (the second half of the 20th century, in fact) from the Yiddish tshatshke (טשאַטשקע), which itself came from the Polish czaczko. The etymological lineage retains the same meaning throughout.

I’m a little curious as to how we were still borrowing Yiddish words as late as 1970, but my suspicion is that it was used ironically—Yiddish is so uncool, it’s cool—and ended up catching on enough to become part of the vocabulary.

§1588 · December 27, 2006 · Tags: ·

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