Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You know, knick-knacks, trinkets, curios . . .


. . . Tchotchkes! If I only had a (Canadian) dollar (a looney) for how many times I heard someone say this week that they didn't know how to spell it. The "correct" spelling is perhaps remote, related as it is to Yiddish. Still, I've been surprised that a phonetic spelling (say, chotchkies?) was so untenable as to give my helpers pause when marking our boxes.

Regardless, the Allied truck pulled out today, with far too many boxes marked "tchotchkes," and boy are my dogs barkin'. I've got Barney Rubble feet right now, they're so tired and swollen.

To make matters worse, my associates and I were so thorough these past few days that in preparing to sit down now, finally, I couldn't find a corkscrew. Curses. When was the last time you shoved a cork into a wine bottle with a screwdriver? (I started with a phillips, to create the necessary aperture, and then used a flat-head to jam the cork into the unsuspecting Pinot Gris. Splash! Relief.) Next thing you know I'll be setting up beer bongs and doing upside-down margaritas. That's right, kids, professors gone wild!

The OED informs me that another Anglicized Yiddish spelling variant of tchotchke is tsatske, and that there is also a diminitive form of the word (yeah, all those little buggers impossible to dust and which require far too much newspaper wrapping), which is spelled tsatskelah. I'm surprised that the OED only dates the word back to 1965, to a W. Markfield text titled "To an Early Grave" (?); but in my work in early modern English, I regularly find earlier usages of words than the dictionary has thus far recorded (FYI).

L'chaim, no doubt, and to peace and well-being.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A Canadian dollar is spelled "loonie." A "looney," generally, is someone locked up for his or her own protection.

Euonymous said...

HA! Lock me up! Take me away!

I have indeed gone orthographically insane!

So many thanks!