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roots schmoots! [prefix schm- / shm-]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Isaia, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. Isaia New Member

    Italian
    Hi, everybody. I wonder if you can help me with this string of words: «roots schmoots». I can’t quite figure out what it means... Here’s the context in which I found it:

    The renaissance of Polish court style among Chassidim is, rather, just one aspect of a sudden and surprising rediscovery and reassertion of Jewry’s eastern European roots among every section of the community. Far from wishing to erase all recollection of the heym as in the past, today’s generation is busily trying to revive its memory. Even in Israel, a state founded to allow Jews to return to the Holy Land, many young people are eagerly searching out their connections with the diaspora. “Roots Schmoots” as novelist Howard Jacobson entitled his account of a trawl through his own ancestral waters.

    The only meaning I could find for Schmoot is “Alternative to such words as crap and heck”, but it doesn’t make sense. Any suggestions? All help will be much appreciated :)
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
  3. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    There was a very earnest TV show some years ago called "Roots", about African-Americans finding their roots in Africa.
    So, as ewie says, Jacobson is making a joke, is mocking this with regard to the Jews. As another Jewish writer said: "Wherever there is a Jew there is a journey; for a Jew to go travelling in search of his Jewishness is therefore doubly Jewish."

    The title is a reflection of Jacobson's cynicism about Jews finding their 'roots'.
     
  4. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    And, fittingly, the joke about Jewish roots uses a Yiddish convention. Works for me.
     
  5. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Chicago
    Spanish - Uruguay
    OK, it comes from Yiddish, but it's now also used in English (even when there is no relation to anything Jewish at all).
    It's a form of dismissal.

    Saludos
     
  6. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    Why the dismissive, condescending reply? :confused:
     
  7. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Chicago
    Spanish - Uruguay
    Well, it is Yiddish after all ...
    The 'shm' is pretty popular, when you want to say that X is not important.

    - Did you hear? your son has an Oedipus complex.
    - Oedipus Shmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother!


    Saludos
     
  8. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I agree that it's worth mentioning that the author is playing with this association.

    (The Oedipus Schmoedipus joke is likewise a play on a Jewish stereotype.)
     
  9. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Chicago
    Spanish - Uruguay
    Well, of course!
    What I'm saying is that it's not used only in English, but in Yiddish is fairly common. I use it.

    Saludos
     
  10. Isaia New Member

    Italian


    I’d like to thank everybody for their help. I see your point and Jacobson’s point, but not quite my author’s. After saying that young Jews are looking for their origins, he plonks point blank the roots schmoots quote: to me the two things are unrelated. On the one hand we have people who obviously value their roots and on the other Jacobson who says (correct me if I’m wrong) something along the lines “roots, oh well... so what of them?”. Is it just me or is there really something amiss with this paragraph?
     
  11. Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    Well, Jacobson sounds like he's being humorously self-deprecating -- in keeping with much Jewish humor, which makes a point of not taking yourself too seriously or giving yourself airs.
     
  12. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Spanish
    My interpretation is that roots schmoots is perhaps the only term that exists (or at least, that the author knows) for 'young Jewish people eagerly searching out their roots.' And that's the reason for why the author mentions it at all: because the term exists. ~ Notice that Howard Jacobson is "known for writing comic novels that often revolve around the dilemmas of British Jewish characters," and that he is Jewish himself. ~ I don't think roots schmoots should be regarded as a belittling term, although it may not be very complimentary either. I think it has been coined with a measure of positive identification with those young people as well as with a certain distance to their endeavors.
     
  13. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I agree with this interpretation. Here is a description of the work itself:
     
  14. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Here's that TV miniseries: Roots (1977).
     

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