I’ve been reading Bill Kauffman’s immensely entertaining, and very serious, Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin. This is Bill’s attempt to get us antifederalists back into the discussion. One of my Straussian friends (a friend, truly!) once described himself as the federalist on our campus, while Willson is the antifederalist. Bill and I agree, I think, that my friend is a nationalist and we are the real federalists. Well, anyway, Bill speaks on p. 61 of antifederalist objections to the “flagitious” slave trade. It’s a great word. It seems to mean something like “wicked,” although to use it to describe the slave trade probably leans more to “villainous” or “disgustingly heinous.” A few pages later, however, we find this remarkable sentence: “One cringes to read the diffident James McHenry of Maryland schlubbishly confessing to the convention on September 17 that although he dislikes ‘many parts of the system,’ he will affix his signature because ‘I distrust my own judgement….'” “Schlubbishly” is an even better word than “flagitious,” because it is just as apt and even more obscure. It doesn’t appear in my Webster’s Universal, nor in my OED (although I admit to having only the compact edition). One easily finds “schlemiel,” “schmaltz,” and “schlock,” but no “schlubb.” Aha, William Safire to the rescue! He describes “an ad placed in the personals by a schlub reading: Sweet Jewish guy,40. No skeletons, no heavy baggage. No personality, either.” (NYT, Oct.5, 2003) It turns out to come from the Polish Zhlob (“blockhead”) and in Yiddish becomes something a bit stronger than “nebbish.” A schlub is”a crude individual lacking in social skills and blessed with insensitivity, clumsiness, and no manners.” Well done, Bill. We poor schlubs blew it in Philadelphia because we were dazzled by the light of the Great Washington and the Great Franklin. I just don’t see why we continue to be dazzled by the light of the Great Obama. Schlubs of the world, unite!


  1. Professor Willson, I could qualify as a schlub. In fact, to prove it I’d like to ask an insensitive question:

    How is it that an anti-federalist (aka true federalist) could also be a person who gravitates to a church that is tightly unified and hierarchical? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or that I see any great inconsistency in it. Far from it. But a book I’m currently reading (“At Home in the Hoosier Hills : Agriculture, Politics, and Religion in Southern Indiana, 1810-1870” by Richard F. Nation (2005)) reminds me of how in American history, people tended to gravitate to systems of church government that were similar to their preferences for secular government. For example, Jackson Democrats in the west tended to reject churches that had a hierarchical government in favor of those that had a very localized, congregational government.

    Some day you could explain how that works (or doesn’t work) in your case.

    There, how’s that question for demonstrating a clumsy lack of social skills?

  2. John,
    That is a demonstration of the opposite of schlubbism. You are not even being a neb. It is true that in the formative years of our independent nationalist government folks tended to line up on the side of the churches they belonged to–baptists were mostly localists, episcopalians mostly nationalists, presbyterians mostly states-righters–but Catholics were always the American anomaly. Thus you have asked exactly the right question, and it is warmly received.
    The wonderful curmudgeon Erik von Keunelt-Leddhin insisted that Catholic aristocrats and monarchists invented real liberalism, and that Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum was the product of the same spirit that moved the 4th Lateran Council (1215) to insist on the liberty of the Church (as was insisted in the first and the last items in Magna Carta); to wit: if a Christian civilization cannot be achieved through policy, it must through freedom.
    Catholics have rarely been nationalists; “congregationalists,” on the other hand, have rarely not been.

  3. Peters,

    O Batavia, O Batavia,
    God gave thee Callahan and Bill,
    And saved thee, and saved thee,
    For the Muckdogs’ fragitious kill.

  4. http://clubadventist.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/170723/Re_Word_of_the_Day

    schlub ( shluhb ), noun, slang , also zhlub, rhymes with club, and grub

    someone clumsy, stupid or unattractive

    [Yiddish, from Polish Zhlob, trough, blockhead.]

    related: adj. schlubbish, schlubby, adv: schlubbishly; adj. zhlubbish, zhlubby, adv: zhlubbishly

    ‘According to Sol Steinmetz, et al., in ”Meshugganery,” an informal dictionary of Yiddishisms, the word is spelled schlub and means ”a crude individual lacking in social skills and blessed with insensitivity, clumsiness and no manners.” A less pejorative sense is ”oaf, bumpkin.” A third sense, similar to nebbish, less often used, is ”a person of no color”: the lexicographers refer to an ad placed in the personals by a schlub reading: ”Sweet Jewish guy, 40. No skeletons, no heavy baggage. No personality, either.” In its form as a modifier, zhlubby is synonymous with the British naff, ”unfashionable, tasteless.” ‘ – William Safire, New York Times, Oct. 05, 2003,

    ”Lads” describes the life of a hapless schlub in romantic affairs, a charlatan in professional matters and a loser in the game of life. – David Carr, New York Times, 14 Sept. 2004

    “Although the lexicographers at M-W classify as “slang” such terms as schlub (stupid person), schlump (sloppy person) and schmuck and schmo (both jerks), they have accepted as Standard English the noun schlock (something of low quality) and the verb schmooze (to converse informally, also “to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business or connections” — that last a superb definition of a verb that filled a void in business communication).” -William Safire, New York Times, 16 Sept. 2007

    ‘ Ted Friedman, author of Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture, suggests that the emergence of the schlub and geek as heroes “has to do with the rising influence of technology”, whereas, he says, “when I was in high school, to be a nerd or a geek was just shameful and not valued”. ‘ – Christopher Goodwin, ‘The sorry state of masculinity in American movies’, timesonline.co.uk

  5. A 40 year old Jewish guy with no skeletons? Well, thats the first whopper. Even if he didn’t have any , his mother would have made him feel guilty for those and any others by the time he was 18.

    Yiddish is , by far, one of the best languages out there. It’s like a language completely comprised of cuss words, richly rewarding in the picturesque manner. Only British slang approaches it and then only meekly.

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