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Donald Trump rally 12/21/2015, Grand Rapids, Michigan:

l- let me just tell you
I may win, I may not win
that's not a president
that's not- she's not taking us to the-
everything that's been involved in Hillary has been losses you take a look
even her race to Obama
she was going to beat Obama
I don't know who'd be worse
I don't know
how does it get worse?
but she was going to beat- she was favored to win
and she got … schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost

Mr. Trump's choice of terminology caused a certain amount of discussion, so he replied:

One result has been more linguistic analysis in the non-linguistic media than we've seen in a long time.

Justin Wm. Moyer ("Donald Trump's 'schlonged': A linguistic investigation", Washington Post 12/22/2016) recruited some expert analysis:

In an email to The Washington Post, Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, a noted researcher on language and cognition, pointed out that Trump, using a term that comes to English via Yiddish and Middle High German, may simply have been trying to say something else.

“Given Trump’s history of vulgarity and misogyny, it’s entirely possible that he had created a sexist term for ‘defeat’ (as far as I know there is no such slang verb in Yiddish),” Pinker wrote. “But given his history with sloppy language it’s also possible that it’s a malaprop.”

Trump’s problem? He’s a gentile who, linguistically, may have wandered too far from home.

“Many goyim are confused by the large number of Yiddish terms beginning with ‘schl’ or ‘schm’ (schlemiel, schlemazzle, schmeggegge, schlub, schlock, schlep, schmutz, schnook), and use them incorrectly or interchangeably,” he wrote. “And headline writers often ransack the language for onomatopoeic synonyms for ‘defeat’ such as drub, whomp, thump, wallop, whack, trounce, clobber, smash, trample, and Obama’s own favorite, shellac (which in fact sounds a bit like schlong). So an alternative explanation is that Trump reached for what he thought was a Yinglish word for ‘beat’ and inadvertently coined an obscene one.”

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall engaged in 3,000 words of ethnographic investigation ("The 'Schlong' Revisionist Analysis We've Been Waiting For?", 12/23/2015; "Trump Doubles Down on "Schlong", New Truth Movement Emerges", 12/23/2015):

Since our initial post we have had a number of TPM Readers (generally men born between 1940 and 1952 in Queens and Long Island) who have clear testimony about what we might call the "Trump/Schlong" usage (aging Jewish male readership finally comes in handy!).

For instance, TPM Reader BR explains the following …

I also grew up on Long Island at the same time as Trump (born in 1949). I too remember "got shlonged" as a common expression (usually in sports) with no sexual overtone. My only criticism of Trump's usage would be that in my recollection the term applies to a team, not an individual. "We got shlonged" sounds right, "I got shlonged" totally wrong. "He got shlonged" doesn't seem as right as "they got shlonged," but the difference isn't as clear-cut to me.

I also think that the everyone probably has the etymology wrong. The more likely etymology is from Yiddish & German schlingen, meaning to devour food. (I know the verb from the Yiddish song "Un az der rebbe zingt" with "Un az der rebbe esst, shlingn alle khasidim," although the version I see on the internet is different.) The simple past tense of this word in German (that tense doesn't exist in Yiddish) is schlang.

So not only did Trump not make the word up, not only is it not vulgar, but it may not even come from Yiddish.


It seems clear to me – based on BR's testimony and ones from at least half a dozen other people – that in the 1950s in Queens and the near-adjoining parts of Long Island "schlonged" was a known phrase, often used in sports references, and at least from the youthful memories of our witnesses could be used without the users having a strong conscious sense of any sexual meaning behind it. The frequency with which it is remembered as being mainly a sports metaphor is notable. […]

At the same time, from emails, Facebook discussions and other sources I've seen numerous Jews, people with deep familiarity with Yiddish, saying they have never, ever heard the phrase used in this way.

We have another account from TPM Reader BD who grew up in this general area in the 60s and 70s, in other words a good ten to twenty years after the putative Queens/Long Island schlong era.

I grew up on Long Island too, 20 minutes from the Queens border. I’m not Jewish but between friends and my father, who was a former shabbos goy, I've heard and used Yiddish all my life. Schlong has, in LI/Queens usage, no meaning other than penis. I don’t really remember hearing the verb schlonged much if at all, but even if it was commonly used the connection to penis is unmistakable. Yes, it would be a milder way of saying “fucked."

And Barbara Morrill at Daily Kos does some OED-style historical lexicography ("Donald Trump says 'schlonged' is an 'often used word in politics' … is he right?", 12/23/2015):

[A] Nexis search of the word “schlonged,” from 1990 through December 20, 2015, turns up a number of instances of the use of the word. Five, to be exact.

There was a 2007 episode of The Man Show where, during a segment on pornography, there was a deep discussion about “spunk,” “neanderthal women pleasuring the wooly mammoth,” “delightful vaginas of yesteryear,” along with their “donkey-schlonged male counterparts” (which are apparently “angry, purple and veiny”).

There was a 2010 review of an undoubtedly charming cable TV show called Hung, that followed the adventures of a “formidably schlonged sports coach.”

Then there was a 2011 episode of NPR’s now-defunct Talk of the Nation, where host Neal Conan, speaking on the death of Geraldine Ferraro, noted that she was the first woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket, but “that ticket went on to get schlonged at the polls.” 

In a 2014 article about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, his role in Boogie Nights, where he played a “gauche gay boom operator with a crush on long-schlonged superstar, Dirk Diggler” was cited.

And finally, there’s a 2014 gossip column talking about a participant in a British reality TV show who was described as “pint-sized and long-schlonged.”

So there you have it. It’s just an often used, common political expression … assuming you’re discussing the size of a candidate’s penis or a woman losing an election to a man. 

You can extend the lexicographical investigation yourself, via Google Books or other resources. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has dominated the Christmas news cycle without spending a penny on publicity:

Update — I somehow managed to miss Ben Zimmer's contribution to schlongology, "The Full History of Political 'Schlongings'", Politico 12/22/2015:

While the expression is rare, it has in fact shown up in earlier political contexts, typically from New Yorkers like Trump. The Post notes that Neal Conan, host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, said in a 2011 broadcast that the 1984 Democratic ticket of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro “went on to get schlonged at the polls.” And on Fox News in 2006, Dick Morris warned that President George W. Bush was “going to get schlonged” in the midterm elections.

Long before that, the phrase made an appearance in New York City collegiate politics. The Daily Mail uncovered a 1967 article in the student newspaper of the City College of New York in which Ellen Turkish, a candidate on the losing slate for student council, said, “We got schlonged.” (As Ellen T. Comisso, she would go on to a distinguished career as a political scientist.)


Will Trump suffer any long-term political fallout over “schlong-gate”? His polling numbers do not seem affected even by his most outrageous statements, so his latest choice of words likely won’t matter, at least in the short term. But over time, his vulgarisms may paint him as rhetorically unpresidential, and he could be the one getting schlonged in the polls.

In any case I think we can guaranteed an uptick in schlong sightings — for example, Brad Delong's 12/23/2015 series of tweets on why "The Federal Reserve's 2%/Year Inflation Target Was a Mistake", which being concatenated read:

Back at Jackson Hole in 1992, LHS’s and my point that an inflation target much less than 5%/year had the strong drawback of making it likely that we would have nasty experiences at the zero lower bound was countered. It was countered by people saying that even if adverse shocks did drive the Fed to the ZLB sometime, such excursions to the ZLB would be rare and short. Confidence in the durability of the “Great Moderation”, and the consequent belief that we did not need to worry about what might happen in what @ojblanchard1 calls “dark corners” was, in retrospect—and some of us thought in prospect—very wrong. It was, I think, a major element in what led the economics department to put itself in a position where it got itself schlonged by reality since 2005 or so…




  1. Lazar said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 7:19 am

    BR's proposal that it comes from schlingen, mediated through a necessarily non-Yiddish preterite form, seems dubious. Wouldn't the more likely explanation be that it simply arose as a reverse calque of hosed?

    [(myl) Yes, that seems to me to make the most sense.]

  2. Pflaumbaum said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 10:56 am

    Is there a hard-and-fast rule as to whether to use a 'c' in these ʃ- words?

    I was always told not to, as there isn't one in Yiddish orthography. But there seems to be a lot of variation even in dictionary forms.

  3. Robert Coren said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 11:06 am

    @Pflaumbaum: Doesn't "Yiddish orthography" normally use Hebrew characters? Any representation of Yiddish in the Latin alphabet is a transliteration, and there seems to be a lot of variety in how it gets transliterated.

    Most of these words are go German origin, and in German /ʃ/ is represented by sch; then again, in English it's normally sh. Still, I would be taken aback (or assume it to be an error) to see a spelling such as shmuck for another common slang penis-word.

  4. Pflaumbaum said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 11:22 am

    Yes Yiddish is written in Hebrew characters, but I don't think it's correct that most of these words are of German origin. Similar words in Yiddish and German often share a common ancestor.

  5. Lazar said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 11:45 am

    @Pflaumbaum: It's true that the YIVO orthography of Yiddish (designed in the 1930s) lacks c. But in English, Yiddish loanwords and surnames have to a great extent passed through a German filter, resulting in sch for sh, tz for ts, w for v, baum for boym, stein for shteyn, various orthographic geminates (e.g. in the word "Yiddish" itself), and so forth.

  6. scout said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

    yep yep

  7. Pflaumbaum said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 1:12 pm

    So should the ʃ- words in fact generally be spelt with a 'c'?

  8. Saurs said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

    He's saying she got fucked, as with a dick, because dicks fuck things and getting fucked is bad. The polite, head-scratching, shoulder-shrugging media confusion over what he Really Meant is… slightly confusing but mostly not-at-all convincing.

  9. Faith said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 2:09 pm

    @Pflaumbaum, there is no "should." If you're transliterating the Yiddish, leave out the "c." If you are using a word in an English text, most editors will pick a standard English dictionary and use whatever spelling it suggests. Context is king.

  10. Marc said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

    There are many words from my school days that didn't seem overtly sexual, misogynous, homophobic, racist or otherwise insulting. But now, in retrospect, they are.

  11. Acme said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

    I love the guy's comment about whether or not it refers to a penis says "it's not clear cut"!

  12. bks said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 4:55 pm

    Would there be any discussion if Trump had said screwed?

  13. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 25, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

    I had a Jewish roommate from Passaic, NJ, at Harvard nearly 60 years ago and I picked up many Yiddish words and expressions from him. He/we always used "schlonged" to mean "beat" or "beaten" — and, as TPM reader BR says, almost always in the context of sports. I think it was a couple of years before I learned that "schlong" is also a noun meaning "penis."

  14. Randy said,

    December 26, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

    I, too, hail from Queens (Forest Hills, to be exact), born 1948. And, I can testify that schlonged is virtually never used as a verb. It is, as previously noted, a vulgar Yiddish noun, referring to the male genitalia. I recall an exchange from the wonderful 70's film "My Favorite Year" in which an outraged t,v, writer played by Bill Macy refers to the faded movie star Alan Swann portrayed by the late great Peter O'Toole. The writer exclaims as a reason to drop Swann from his guest appearance slot, "He had his schlong out in public". Overhearing him, the veddy British Swann responds, "What I do with my schlong is my business". To which the writer, trying to save face, replies, "How's business?". Swann tops him by adding, "Never better!".
    This was funny in a film comedy, but virtually nothing Trump does or says is funny, charming, witty or erudite. He's a racist, sexist viulgarian, and his inexplicable popularity within a certain, hopefully, minority of the population is deeply troubling. Stephen Colbert says that the only thing he admires about Trump is his successful populism. I'm not so sure. I do believe he is a mirror by which we, as a group, should take stock of ourselves while we are still able to do so. After all, one can argue that National Socialism was also a populist movement, and that its leader presented a similar charismatic demagoguery unfettered by fact checking and truth telling.

  15. Ross Presser said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 4:26 am

    I think it's clear that there is at least a segment of usage where schlonged is a verb referring to being beaten in sports. There have been multiple people making this claim now — too many for it to be a conspiracy trying to defend Trump. So I think the naysayers have to admit the existence of this usage. Call it jargon, if you must, and continue to probe where this usage came from — but stop denying it exists at all.

  16. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 7:48 am

    Thank you, Ross Presser.

    I am one of those who attested to the use of "schlonged" in a sports context and, believe me, Donald Trump is the last person in the world whom I would defend. It never even occurred to me that anyone would suspect that.

  17. Nathan Myers said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 11:08 am

    @Randy: The press are painfully aware that very, very few people are Trump supporters, and even more painfully aware that nothing else in the campaign draws the attention of any more viewers / listeners than that. They are facing a very dull campaign with nothing to offer advertisers but another clown show. Remember last time around? It was obvious they would run Romney, but who would pay attention to that? They needed loons. Loons are eager for attention. Everybody wins (except us).

  18. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 11:18 am

    @Nathan Myers:
    The latest credible poll shows that 72% of Republic voters have a favorable view of Trump. That's not "very, very few people."

  19. P said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

    Is there a name for the phenomenon where a word or expression has two connotations, one supposedly obscene and the other not, and two parties to a conversations are each aware of only one connotation, and these happen to be different ones?

    I once had a particularly embarrassing case of this. Over a dinner table conversation, I casually mentioned that the Indian filmmaker/actor Raj Kapoor often tried to recreate Charlie Chaplin's tramp persona in less comic Indian contexts. I noticed that my hosts seemed uncomfortable with the word "tramp", for some reason.

    Later that evening, I found out that in colloquial American slang, "tramp" roughly means "prostitute". It was a lesson for me to never use a word in a dinner-table conversation unless I had looked it up on Urban Dictionary.

  20. Brett said,

    December 27, 2015 @ 8:05 pm

    @P: "Tramp" does not mean "prostitute"; it means "promiscuous woman" (although I have occasionally heard it used to describe promiscuous men as well. I am pretty surprised that anyone would be offended by it though. The older meaning is well known in America, even if it is not particularly commonly used. (Other terms, such as "hobo" or "drifter," are a lot more common, with various shades of meaning.)

  21. Nathan Myers said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 2:41 am

    @Ralph: That is 72% of the fraction that identify as Republican out of the 8% of those called who agree to answer the poll. Whatever that fraction is, the total number is very small, and is drawn from people who still answer a landline. (For comparison, in the 2012 election the poll response rate was ~40%.) Whatever this 72% number means, it doesn't tell us anything about actual support by likely national-election voters. At primaries the turnouts are not quite so low as 8%, but are still not really representative of anything. What we can safely conclude is that the TV networks are desperate, and the Trump name still sells ads.

  22. Lane said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 10:06 am

    I'm sorry Nathan, but (as a member of the press) I can promise you we're not covering Trump because we want to sell ads. And it's not just the TV networks. (I work for a magazine generally considered to be of pretty high quality, and we've put him on the cover twice.) He has won every poll bar a couple of small outliers since July, for the party of Lincoln. That 72% rating is only one of the striking numbers; he also leads the polls in questions like which candidate can best handle the economy and terrorism. His proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country was endorsed by a majority of Republicans. He is quite simply dominating the race, with the only candidates who have nipped his heels being those who have adopted his kind of politics.

    You're right that a smallish number identify as Republicans — about 25% at the moment, about 10 percentage points below the number who identify as Democrats — which is lowish, but not crater-low:

    But those die-hards are precisely the ones who vote in primaries, a fact also well known by the press.

    Trump is the front-runner. It's that simple. He may not win, but he has been the only person to whom the label "front-runner" can apply since he declared, and since his poll numbers managed to survive gaffe after gaffe after gaffe, to the amazement of all of the old political pros, among them the entire press corps, who thought Trump was another summer fling.

  23. Lane said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 10:21 am

    And before a familiar refrain recurs — he is only leading the polls because of his press coverage — yes, there's a dynamic by which press helps politicians get attention, which makes it *possible* for them to rise in the polls. But it is no guarantee of anything; once in the limelight a candidate can do a million things wrong, or just, more often, fade: I can so clearly remember (having covered both 2004 and 2008) the booms of Howard Dean, George Allen, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and others. In one way or another they were all real stories, even if briefly – they rose in the polls, and voters were clearly having a look around, and reporters being in the news business and not the olds business, they flocked to these new candidates. But the press can't keep a candidate at the top of the polls for six months, or Rick Santorum would have been wiped out by Barack Obama in every state in 2012.

    The unfortunate fact is that the people have opinions, and brilliant though we reporters surely all are, we don't have all that much power to manipulate them.

  24. BZ said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

    To get back on track here, while I've never heard of the verb form "schlonged", it doesn't really matter. The noun "schlong" in English is inoffensive enough to be used by the media, as quotes above have attested. Yes, it's a sexual word, but not all sexual words are automatically slurs. So even if Trump is in error in how he used the word, there is nothing inherently offensive in it, regardless of whether it refers to a woman or a man, any more than being "screwed" in a non-sexual sense is more offensive to a woman than a man.

  25. Nathan Myers said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

    This isn't a forum for politics, but the definition of "front-runner" is a legitimate topic, as is "clown show". I don't know the press equivalent to the term "regulatory capture", but if any are insulated from the commercial imperatives of the news business, those operating the businesses are not. No one questions that Trump qualifies as front-runner by the criterion the press use, precisely as no one can question People Magazine's choice of "World's Sexiest Man". At issue is whether the criterion has any objective referent in the wider world. We endured a half-dozen front-runners during the clown show of 2011-12 even as everyone knew that, come November, the party would trot out Romney. It is less obvious who it can run next year, but we can at least be confident that it will not be Trump.

    I have only just discovered "identified patient", which seems apt.

  26. Nathan Myers said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

    It continues to amaze me that "screwed" and "hosed" are usable in public commentary by people who need to maintain some sort of dignity. They don't seem like euphemisms, but rather graphic descriptions of what, in context, is implied to be figurative rape.

    Were there equivalent non-euphemisms in the last century that I didn't notice because they had been so scrubbed of their prior meaning? Surely this cannot be a new phenomenon.

    [(myl) Keats: "Thou still unravished bride of quietness"…

    Or from Pope's "The Rape of the Lock":

    Th' Adventrous Baron the bright Locks admir'd,
    He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd:
    Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
    By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray;
    For when Success a Lover's Toil attends,
    Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain'd his Ends.

    Of course there are plenty of literary works from classical times onwards that discuss real rather than metaphorical rapes without euphemistic language.]

  27. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 28, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

    I knew "screwed" in its non-sexual sense years before I knew it had a sexual meaning. That's going back to the late '40s.

  28. Brett said,

    December 29, 2015 @ 9:51 am

    @Nathan Myers: I suspect that the fact that "screwed" and "hosed" are already metaphorical as descriptions of sex makes them automatically much less vulgar when they are used to form a second metaphor.

  29. ardj said,

    January 1, 2016 @ 4:40 pm

    @Brett: – and sorry for delayed, er, intervention.

    1. & @Lazar: ‘hosed’ surely has the initial meaning in slang usage of ‘urinated on’, even though its use has been extended to mean merely, e.g. worn out or messed up. It is accordingly not a sexual usage but an excretory one, even if common alternatives are e.g. fucked up.

    [American Heritage notes two further meanings, one from the normal tube for conveying liquid leading to attacking/killing typically by use of a firearm, and a second , to exploit, cheat or defraud; while Urban dictionary adds two alternative sources, from a baseball usage of ‘hose’ for a good arm, presumably from the first American Heritage definition I cited, and from ‘rubber hosed’ which degenerates again into leaving someone really messed up – although ‘messed up’ itself seems to have more force in US English than I am aware of in UK usage].

    2. But your point that ‘screwed’ and ‘hosed’ are metaphorical overlooks that ‘everyone’ (except perhaps Mr Trump) is aware of the possible scatological force of the words. There are certainly contexts in which I would be shocked by ‘screwed’ – even though I would readily use it everyday to describe e.g. a situation in which someone had been cheated, and on occasion among familiars to deal with sexual intercourse. And I suggest this is even more true, for both words, when they are used about women (of whom, regrettably perhaps, I am not one). They can have a demeaning and dehumanizing effect even applied to men, and much more so applied to women.

    The relevance of this to ‘schlonged’ is also obvious: Trump’s meandering discourse suggests an ill-ordered mind, and one that may not have been consciously aware of the physical meaning of ‘schlong’. But I would think it almost certain that he was aware of the emotional force that it might have applied to a woman.

    Perhaps I could end by wishing that 'hose' might some day be used to mean 'sock it to me'.

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