Growing up in my house was sometimes a linguistic adventure. Between having a parent that speaks English as a second language and all of the Yiddish sprinkled into everyday conversation, I’m guessing our house was fairly unique, linguistically speaking. Of course, when you’re living in it as a kid, you don’t necessarily know that things are different in your house.
It hit me when, as a college freshman, I used the phrase “toweling paper” when referring to paper towels. My friends looked at me like I had a third eye. “Did you just say toweling paper”? “This isn’t the Special Ed dorm”. I was eighteen years old and I had no idea that paper towels were not called toweling paper.
No one spoke a full sentence in Yiddish in my house but individual words were always part of the conversation. And as most people know these days, Yiddish words are funny. Most Yiddish words sound like their meaning.
I can’t remember who said this but it sounds like Mel Brooks or maybe Garry Marshall. When asked what the difference is between a shlameel and a shlamzel, one of them said, “A shlameel is a clumsy oaf who is always spills his soup. A shlamazel is the poor guy that the shlameel spills his soup on.”
What made me think of this? Well sports fans, The Bills are playing the lowly Cleveland Brown this weekend. The Browns are 0-13 and looking to run the table in reverse. It occurred to me that the Browns are the shlameels this season and if the Bills lose to them(which would be the Billsiest thing ever), they are the shlamazels. Please, please, please, Bills, don’t be the shlamazels this week!