A jewelry store called Schmuck
I was somewhat taken aback when, while wandering through the streets of Athens yesterday, I came upon a jewelry store called Schmuck. (Please refer to photo below.) I stood across the street pondering for a moment, took a photo, and continued on my walk. This morning I decided to look up the definition for “shmuck”. The Wikipedia entry proved to be both helpful and fascinating.
Here’s what I found: Schmuck or shmuck in American English is a perjorative meaning an obnoxious, contemptible or detestable person, or one who is stupid or foolish. The word entered English from Yiddish, where it has similar pejorative meanings, but its original meaning in Yiddish is penis. Because of its vulgarity,the word is euphemized as schmoe. Variants include schmo and shmo.
Looking further into the etymology of the word: The German word Schmuck means “jewelry, adornments”. In German the pejorative “schmuck” would be Schmock, closer to the original Yiddish word. The transition of the word from meaning “jewel” to meaning “penis” is related to the description of a man’s genitals as “the family jewels”.