The heat in Brooklyn (and much of the Eastern US) has not broken. Meteorologists are predicting some heavy thunderstorms in the area and these should bring a cold front, lowering the temperatures from the punishing 90s to the more-palatable 80s. I will tell you that this extreme heat is causing quite an uproar in the house. Many of the cryptids do not flourish in the heat, and I’ve had to move most of these creatures into the cellar and the grotto, where the temperatures are cooler. Unfortunately, I am unable to separate everyone, so the noise and the confusion coming from the cellar is quite a distraction.

Which brings me to today’s word.

Shemozzle is a noun meaning a state of chaos or confusion; a muddle; a quarrel or rumpus; an uproar.

The word might be Yiddish in origin, though Leo Rosten says in The Joys of Yiddish that shemozzle has no connections with the Yiddish language at all. Some postulate that the word was created to sound Yiddish, since words like schlimeil, schmuck, schmaltz, and schlimazel have enjoyed popularity in American English through the Yiddish-immigrant influence. (Go ahead, dears, sing the opening of the Laverne and Shirley theme song.) Still others tenuously suggest that shemozzle comes from schlimazel.

Schlimazel itself (meaning a habitual failure; a born loser) comes from slim mazel, an excellent example of Yiddish being a combination of Hebrew and German. Slim is an Old German word meaning crooked and mazel is a Hebrew word meaning luck. Therefore, slim mazel is literally crooked luck. Now, whether and how this evolved into the word shemozzle in America might be grasping at straws. Many, in fact, scoff at this association and might even call you a schmuck for believing the theory.

Whatever the origin, the shemozzel in my cellar is grating on my last, over-heated nerve which one might say is indeed schlimazel.


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