The Definition of Schmeck?

Yo, Yenta Advice Reader Dave Reason (who admits to not being Jewish, but I have reason to believe may be Canadian) wants to know if I, of much useless linguistical knowledge, can help him with a wordsmithing challenge:

I have always used the expression “schmecks,” meaning “fits” or “works
for me.” For example, “I have been thinking about what to do on my
vacation, and the idea of going to Mexico schmecks.” A certain person here says there no such word or
expression, and gee, even the sainted Wikipedia seems to know nothing of
it. Have you ever heard of it?

Dave, I gotta say I never hoid of “schmeck,” though of course it sounds an awful lot like “schmuck,” so at first I was thinking “oy, this poor goy, he’s been telling people he wants to go act like a dickhead in Mexico.” But I put my researching skills (and picking through Google results is a skill, people) to work:

While there wasn’t an exact match on the Yiddish Dictionary, “shmek” translates into a “whiff,” as in “I opened the hamper and got a shmek of your socks; dude, use the Melaleuca foot spray already.” However, on the same search the YidDic lists “shmekele” as “little penis,” which isn’t the direction in which we’re wanting to travel, my mamaloshen-luvin’ mishpotechen.

I then found my way to Edna Staebler’s popular Mennonite cookbook
More Food That Really Schmecks
, leading to me to believe schmecks might be a synonym for “may cause a heart attack.” Tasty-lookin’ fare, but a little on the beige side for my taste, and not matching Dave’s usage.

Since Yiddish and German overlap linguistically at times, I thought to take a gander at the German permutations of “schmeck,” all of which have gastronomical connotations like “tasty,” “lip-smackin’,” and “that tastes like scheissdreck.”
In this context Miz Edna’s title makes sense, but fails even further to support Dave’s definition. contains an entry for “schmeck,” but I’m guessing it’s about as far from validating our friend Dave as one could get:

(n.) Gay motherfucker, frequently the object of affection of the men of Boston. Frequently plays with PuBEs. (There is no further clarification to be found on the term “PuBe;” perhaps my boys in Boston can elucidate?)

So Dave — sorry, man. All I came up with is penis whiff, tasty potato pie and bottoms from Beantown. But language is a fluid thing, always changing, some words dropping out of the lexicon from neglect and others gaining momentum. The future of “schmeck” is in your hands, friend — go make your definition official!

12 thoughts on “The Definition of Schmeck?

  1. A Russian Jewish friend was describing a French-Russian film that he thought was beautiful. At a loss for words, he brought his fingers towards his mouth and said: “It was… schmeck… you know? …tasty.”

  2. For whatever it is worth, the slang for heroin-smack has been suggested to be a corruption of schmeck meaning taste. “Give me a taste”.

  3. There’s a variant in Serbian slang, written as šmek which is the phonetic spelling of schmeck (sch -> š, ck -> k) and while an on-line dictionary does list the culinary reference as well the main meaning in Serbian is more general and metaphoric. Roughly “is what decorates your personality in an interesting and somewhat loutish manner”. Used for artists or football players that “have that intangible something” like “these new actors might be all fancy and pretty but that old actor has a šmek”. Also used for situations, even cities to denote “special, distinctive atmosphere/personality”, again “that intangible something” and highly metaphorical. There’s a derived term šmeker, used as a permanent, personal trait, again mostly for actors but also for guys who can get girls easily without having the obvious looks. Thee is a certain age connotation, while šmeker may occasionally be a young guy (who gets chicks easily while not being a looker), for something to “have a šmek” it has to be oldish/mature. The principal use is always metaphoric i.e. one will hardly ever hear it used for actual food and if used for food it does’t mean taste literally but a general impression.

    • Yes, going with distinctive atmosphere, a review of the Yugoslavian film, Bestije (1977), on IMDB says, “The film is an intelligent and well crafted story about human soul, placed in an unidentified Adriatic island with Montenegrin schmeck.” In Dutch or Afrikaans, flavour is smaak; in German, geschmack.

  4. I’ve always heard it as a Pennsylvania Dutch expression for mess or tangle, usually of weeds or brush. Out on the golf course, I blutzed my ball into the schmeck.

  5. I think schmeck did originate in a small smell, whiff of something related to food but then got re used to mean small penis. Hence the diminutive term schmekle that also means small penis.

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