Louie and I were talking about the wittiness of Yiddish words. What’s the difference between a schlemiel and schlimazel? he said — pause— “A schlemiel spills soup on a Schlimazel.”
schlemiel: an inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish שלעמיל shlemil from Hebrew שלא מועיל “ineffective”) …
schlimazel also schlemazl: a chronically unlucky person (שלימזל shlimazl, from Middle Dutch slimp ‘crooked, bad’—akin to Middle High German slimp ‘awry’, or schlimm ‘poor or lacking’—and Hebrew מזל mazzāl ‘luck’, cf. German Schlamassel) … In June 2004, Yiddish schlimazel was one of the ten non-English words that were voted hardest to translate by a British translation company. In a classic Vaudeville skit, the schlemiel spills the soup into the schlimazel’s lap.