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Tchotchke (// CHOCH-ka) is a small bauble or miscellaneous item. Depending on context, the term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability as well as tackiness, and has long been used by Jewish-Americans and in the regional speech of New York City and elsewhere.
The word may also refer to free promotional items dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar large events. Also, stores that sell cheap souvenirs in tourist areas like Times Square, Venice Beach, and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii are sometimes called "tchotchke shops".
A common confusion is between the terms tchotchke and tsatske or rather tsatskele, with the diminutive ending -le. Both terms have the same Slavic root, but the tch- version stems from Russian, while the ts- originates in Polish. There is some debate within academia as to the true origin. In either case, tchotchke usually references useless trinkets, while tsatskele is more likely to mean a young girl or woman: if very young, she's "quite a handful", even when used lovingly; when a bit older, it is somebody using her charms in order to reach her goals. Being Yiddish, it all can be set on its head by the use of gestures and a change in tone, so that tsatskele can become the favorite child. All these nuances notwithstanding, Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, combines the two main meanings and gives an alternate sense of tchotchke as meaning a desirable young girl, a "pretty young thing". Less flatteringly, the term could be construed as a more dismissive synonym for "bimbo". These usages are not common outside of Jewish circles. The term [ˈtsats.ke] is sometimes used in modern Hebrew as a slang word equivalent to slut. That's from one Hebrew slang specialist. To which one needs to add: unless it's used as "somebody young who's a real handful", even extended to boys. Yiddish words used by Hebrew speakers sometimes lose part of their initial meaning, either due to limited contact to spoken Yiddish, or to the adaptation to Israeli mentality and morals (best example: on a kibbutz a mensch becomes a reliable "doer", rather than the original "person of character" with a touch of generosity).
In some friend circles, the word Tchotchke, often shortened to "tchotch," may be used as a term of endearment given from one friend to another.
The term is slightly reinvented by each (surviving) family.
Etymology and spelling
The word "tchotchke" derives from a Slavic word for "a trinket" (Ukrainian: цяцька, tsiats'ka, [ˈtsjɑts.kɑ]; Polish: Sg. cacko /Pl.cacka, [ˈtsats.ka]; Slovak: čačka, [ˈtʃatʃ.ka] CHACH-ka, Russian: цацки, tsatski, [ˈt͡sat͡s.ki])—adapted to Yiddish Sg. טשאַטשקע, tshatshke, "trinket". Tchotchkes are often given at Chanukkah as part of a game.
A wide variety of spellings exist for the English usage of the term, e.g. tshotshke, tshatshke, tchachke, tchotchka, tchatchka, chachke, tsotchke, chotski, or chochke; the standard Yiddish transliteration is tsatske or tshatshke. In Israeli Hebrew it is often spelled צאצקע, [ˈtsats.ke], with a tsade instead of teth-shin, as in Yiddish.
- Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, tchotchke : /ˈtʃɒtʃkə/
- Merriam Webster Dictionary, tchotchke : \ˈchäch-kə, ˈtsäts-kə\
- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, at "The Free Dictionary", tchotch·ke : chŏchˈkə
- Random House Unabridged Dictionary, at "Infoplease", tchotch•ke, pronunciation: chäch'ku
- Webster's New World College Dictionary, at "Your Dictionary", tchotchke : (sound file)
- "Tchotchke, chachka, tsatke ... whatever", Seaway News
- "Inside the Bernie Madoff Tchotchke Auction", Gawker
- J. Kačala et al.: Short Dictionary of Slovak Language. Veda, 2003.  (meaning: cheap decorative thing, trinket)
|Look up tchotchke in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Tchotchke etymology on WorldWideWords.org