Last month Google launched Schemer, an “activities recommendation engine” that—I’m quoting Mashable here—“promises to become Google’s version of Facebook Events.”
From the About page:
Whether it’s exploring a new city, checking out a friend’s movie recommendation, or just finding new activities for your weekends, Schemer lets you discover new things to do, share schemes with friends, and make the most of your day.
“Scheme” seems a bit hyperbolic for a plan shared with friends. A scheme—from Latin schema, “figure”—can be “a systematic plan of action,” “a chart or diagram,” or “a secret or devious plot.” I’m supposing that Google prefers the third definition; ergo “You’re looking diabolical!”
But I have another problem with Schemer: I keep seeing it as a Yiddish word. As in, “You want some schemer with that bagel?”
Schmear game from JET (Jewish Educational Toys). More on the meaning and derivation of “schmear” here.
Alternatively: “He’s a schmendrick, he’s a schmo, he’s a schmuck. What a schemer!” Yiddish is, after all, full of words that begin with sch- and have an m somewhere in the word. (See my post about Libros Schmibros.)
I mentioned my problem on Twitter and got this response:
Which made me remember (not verbatim, of course; I had to look it up) this Philip Roth passage from Portnoy’s Complaint:
The novelist, what’s his name, Markfield, has written in a story somewhere that until he was fourteen he believed “aggravation” to be a Jewish word. Well, this was what I thought about “tumult” and “bedlam,” two favorite nouns of my mother’s. Also “spatula.”
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, that gonif, took Roth’s idea and put it in the mouth of that nice Gentile girl Donna Moss in Season 2 of The West Wing. He has Donna say to Toby Ziegler, “You know what word should be Yiddish but isn’t? ‘Spatula.’ Also, ‘far-fetched.’” (Right—as if Donna would know!)
Even if you’re not bringing a Yiddish-y, bagel-inflected bias to the pronunciation, “Schemer” still strikes me as a little off-kilter. There’s nothing overtly furtive—or schematic, for that matter—about the sorts of activities that get through Schemer’s filters: baking cookies, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, reading the Steve Jobs biography, etc.
VentureBeat probes a little deeper and detects something sneaky after all:
Oh Google, your aptly named new product Schemer doesn’t have us fooled. We know you’re calling it a new way to discover things to do, but we see this for what it really is — an assault against Foursquare and the company’s hold over quality location-based content, city tips and to-dos.
Diabolical indeed! Clearly, in its pursuit of Internet domination, Google won’t settle for anything less than the whole schmear.