Schlemiel! Schlimazel!

Do you remember the main characters of the Laverne and Shirley Show singing their opening theme song?  It went, "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!"  According to some sources, it comes from a Yiddish American Hopscotch rhyme.  Below you can hear the theme song…

Here’s the full hopscotch chant:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Schlemiel! Schlimazel!
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

A Schlemiel is a klutz, an inept person, a bungler.  Everything always goes wrong for a schlemiel.  A Schlimazel is someone who has bad luck.  Think about it: Mazel = Luck (think Mazel Tov), so Schlimazel = Bad Luck.  Hasenpfeffer is a German rabbit stew.

The idea of the schlemiel spilling soup on the schlimazel is a common way of explaining the difference between them.  You can hear someone explaining the difference between Schlemiel and Schlimazel in the video below…

If anyone knows anything about this rhyme, or if you remember chanting it, please let us know in the comments below. 

Thank you dahling!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011 at 11:53 am and is filed under Chants, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Games Around the World, Hopscotch, Hopscotch Rhymes, Languages, Rhymes by Theme, USA, Yiddish, Yiddish Children's Songs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Schlemiel! Schlimazel!”

  1. shimke Says:

    Actually, this is an innovation in American Jewish culture. In Europe, shlimazel and shlimiel were dialectal variants of the same word. BTW, altho it is a Yiddish word derived from ancient Aramaic/Hebrew/Persian, mazel has entered several European languages as slang, e.g. German (I believe in the area around Frankfurt, or can be more wide-spred) and perhaps Dutch. It is widely used in American-Jewish English in the expression “Mazel tov!” which means congratulations (literally “good luck”, short for ‘congratualtions on your good luck.’) This expression is used in various situations, but is almost de rigueur when someone marries. It appears in the [American-?] Yiddish celebratory song “Khosn-kale mazel tov” (pron ‘khUSSn kAH-leh mAHzltuff’)(NB: kh as in khale/challeh ‘braided bread’, loch ‘Scottish lake’, J.S.Bach, khanike ‘Channukah’)

  2. Lisa Yannucci Says:

    Hi Shimke – Do you know if people play, or used to play, hopscotch with this rhyme? I saw in one place that it was recited in the Bronx but that was sketchy. -Lisa

  3. shimke Says:

    I have never heard of this. Indeed, I never heard the rhyme. When we played hopscotch, I do not recall any rhyme at all.

    Of course, I grew up in another country (Brooklyn!).

  4. Melissa Says:

    Thank you for this video!!! Love it. Still trying to figure out why the soup was “incorporated” as in hassenfeffer inc!

  5. Bonny Says:

    At a day camp with primarily Jewish kids in the ’50’s, groups of girls would skip around reciting it and laughing. At the time, nobody knew what it meant…it just sounded funny.

  6. Don Says:

    Hasenpfeffer is how the soup is spelled. Hasenfeffer(minus the “p” but pronounced the same) is an all grain American wheat or rye beer originally by Jacob Hoffman Brewing Company of NYC. I always thought that the Laverne and Shirley reference was to Haffenreffer, a brewer in Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA who’s beer was around until the 60’s. However, after just listening to the theme song on something clearer than an old TV set, it definitely sounds like Hasenfeffer. That name has actually stuck around and these days, it’s used as a sort of slang reference to any all grain home brew.

  7. Deanna Fisher Says:

    I never recited but I did hear the Penny Marshall (Laverne) in a interview say that she used to sing that with 2 of her best friends while they skipped home from school when she was in elementary school. That’s all I remember.

  8. Lisa Says:

    Wikipedia backs you up Deanna, “The hopscotch chant is from Penny Marshall’s childhood.” She grew up in the Bronx.

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