When we can’t find the proper word in a sentence or we’re too rushed or we don’t know what the right word is, we have been filling the space with the non-word (or so we thought) “schmenge”.
Schmenge has a bit of a storied history thanks to the Schmenge Brothers on SCTV played by John Candy and Eugene Levy. So saying “Would you hand me the…schmenge?” is a sort of homage to the sketch comedy of our youth. So imagine my surprise when I googled schmenge to find that it has an actual meaning!
A schmenge is a Belgian or Dutch Tour-de-France super-fan who sabotages a rider during the big race in a bid to give their favourite an advantage. It’s a sort of slang, sure, but it’s as real as spokes and handlebars. The term was apparently popularized by former rider and regular Tour-de-France commentator Bob Roll. I suppose one might shout to a competitor, “Schmenge, dead ahead!” Or “stay hydrated and keep watch for schmenges.”
Knowing that there’s a literal meaning for schmenge will not stop us from using it as our fill-in word. It comes in very handy when I need a tool and ask, “Do you have a schmenge?” and Derek has to try to figure out if I’m talking about a screwdriver, a mallet or something else completely. It can also be employed in the telling of a story. “I was having a coffee with Al and his buddy…. um…. Schmenge….”
Of course we would never condone the jumping on, tossing of items at or otherwise ruining the experience of a professional cyclist! Sometimes you just need a word that says, I don’t remember or know what is supposed to go here so I will offer my quick substitute so I can get on with my story: Schmenge.