Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

"Getting off the shnide." (Obviously I'm not sure of the spelling.) It's an expression I hear almost exclusively in sports commentary to indicate a team has finally won a game after a protracted drought at the beginning of the season. (Example: "The Detroit Lions started the season oh-and-six, but finally got off the schneid by beating Green Bay.") It has been popularized by Chris Berman at ESPN. He didn't invent the term (I don't think) and he is primarily where I hear it from.

  • How do you spell it?
  • What is its origin? (I'm guessing Yiddish based on the "shn" combination, but I don't really know)
share|improve this question
Google autocomplete/ autosuggest could have answered this Q. GR. – Kris Mar 24 at 13:24

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Word Detective has this to say about it:

"Schneid" is actually short for "schneider," a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. "Schneider" entered the vocabulary of gin from German (probably via Yiddish), where it means "tailor." Apparently the original sense was that if you were "schneidered" in gin you were "cut" (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.

share|improve this answer
The term schneider is used in Sheepshead. Never heard it in Gin. – tchrist Jul 25 '12 at 15:22

The explanation of Word Detective is very funny but really not convincing. The expression seems to be modelled after German Schneid and that has only a far relation with Schneider (tailor) as Schneid means something like courage, daring, efficiency.

Of a young daring officer one can say "Der hat Schneid", and there is the expression " jemandem den Schneid abkaufen" meaning to be stronger than the daring opponent so that he loses his courage.

I have never had cause to look for the origin of Schneid. The origin may be Yiddish, but I strongly suspect that it is modelled after Latin acies. The basic meaning is sharpness as of the blade of a sword. Roman poets used acies metaphorically for army, comparing the front line of the attacking legion to the sharpness of a sword. The cutting edge of a sword is in German "die Schneide" and that I think is where metaphoric Schneid comes from.

So "Der hat Schneid " means he is like a sword the cutting edge of which is very sharp.

German Schneider is also an expression in connection with card games. If the opposing party has not even reached a certain limit of points they are Schneider, and have to pay the double sum to the winners. The origin of that expression seems to be a bit complicated. At least I don't have an explanation at hand. I don't want to exclude the possibility that Schneider (the term of card games) had an influence on the English expression, simply transferring a term of card games for a decisive victory over the opponent team to the sector of sports.

Now I have looked around a bit. Google has the American expression in the sports sector to get off the schneid (mostly spelled in this way). This corresponds to the German card games expression when a team has difficulty to reach 30 points. When at last they can reach 30 they are out of the Schneider. They have lost high but don't have to pay their loss with the double sum. (You win with 61 points in the card game Skat.)

So I have to correct my first view. The American expression has something to do with expressions of card games.

share|improve this answer
Yes, such as in Sheepshead/Schafkop. – tchrist Oct 26 '14 at 4:56
Yes, in Schafkopf, a simpler version of Skat, the same expression is used. – rogermue Oct 26 '14 at 5:04
I hate it when I don’t notice typos until it’s past the comment-edit time. I played a lot of Euchre and Schafkopf growing up, and I remember friends in college playing Doppelkopf, but we (meaning I) never played Scat. I think the Bohemian inlaws played Skat, just as the English side played Bridge; the Danish side played Euchre like anybody else in Wisconsin. I enjoyed Sheepshead for its rotating 5-player form with 2-against-3, the picker and secret parter against the rest. I never played any of them when I stayed in Aachen and Munich in my 20s, but people around me did. – tchrist Oct 26 '14 at 14:46

"Get off the schneid" means "to break a scoreless streak" (a series of consecutive wins or losses). Schneid possibly comes from the German/Yiddish schneider, which means "one who cuts cloth" (i.e., a tailor).

share|improve this answer

Schneid means "to snip." I guess it means to "cut" the losing streak, but I'm not sure.

schneiden (no capital) is the infinitive which means "to cut" (or snip). Der(or Die) Schneid (an informal noun) means "guts." Die Schneide is a noun which means "a sharp cutting edge" or "blade."

share|improve this answer

I first became aware of the phrases "on the schneid" and "off the schneid" in the 1980s and 1990s in connection with baseball, where they meant, respectively, "enduring a string of bad performances" and "breaking out of a bad slump" (sometimes referred to as an "o-fer" when a hitter has not had a base hit in, say, 18 at bats over several games, making him 0-for-18).

Paul Dickson, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, third edition (2011) has the following entries for schneid and schneider:

schneid A game, series of games, or period during which a team has been shut out or a batter has gone hitless.

schneider To shut out. ... ETYMOLOGY. According to Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner (Dictionary of American Slang, 1960), the term came originally from the German and Yiddish "schneider" for one who cuts cloth, or a tailor. On its way to baseball, it appears to have become a gin rummy term for preventing an opponent from scoring a point in a game or match.

I have never seen or heard the term schneider used in the way Dickson describes, but I particularly remember (sometime in the late 1990s) the Oakland Athletics manager Art Howe expressing relief after his team finally won decisively, after a series of poor performances and a long series of innings during which the team had gone scoreless, that the A's had "gotten of the schneid." The Athletics' radio announcers used the term, too. The connection of baseball players to gin rummy is quite strong because gin rummy is one of the main card games traditionally played in major league clubhouses, a fact mentioned by players and sportswriters for decades.

Leo Cohen & Robert Scharff, Cohen's Complete Book of Gin Rummy (1973) [combined snippets] devotes considerable time to the subjects of being "on a schneid" and getting "off the schneid," since avoiding the former and becoming adroit at the latter are crucial to winning at gin rummy:

While getting off a schneid or keeping an opponent on a schneid are the most overriding situations in any game, most hands should be played to win the maximum number of points. Sometimes you can win more points with a "weak" knock than with a "good" gin. In such a case, play to knock as quickly as you can. At other times, you may determine that a knock would win very little. Then you should play the hand for gin.

The points system in gin rummy rewards winning hands in which the opponent is held below a certain number of points (as rogermue notes in his answer) at a much higher rate than it does ordinary wins.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Mar 1 at 19:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?