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I quite frequently use a word that sounds like "shtook", to mean, trouble with the law or other authorities, as in, "You'll be in dead shtook if you do that" or "you'll be in real shtook if you don't finish your homework", but I have never seen it written, and don't know how it is spelt.

Can anyone shed some light on the matter. A search like this doesn't get very far; the real dictionaries don't recognise it and the Urban Dictionary here has only a typically obscene interpretation not in the least bit like I remember it.

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  • In my upbringing (North London Jewish) it was always shtukh with a fricative at the end, not a plosive. When I heard shtuk I assumed it was speakers for whom the /x/ was alien, like those who pronounce loch like lock. I always took it to be a Yiddish word, but never explored it.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 18, 2013 at 17:10

8 Answers 8

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The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English has this:

shtuck; schtuck; schtook; stuk noun trouble. Not Yiddish despite appearances, although probably formed on the Yiddish model of a reduplicated word commencing with a ‘sh’ sound, in which case ‘shtuck’ is a variant of ‘stuck’ (in a difficult situation) UK, 1936.

The OED agrees, "origin unknown: app. not a Yiddish word".

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    Could that be of German origin (as in "Stück Hölle") ? May 4, 2011 at 19:52
  • @Alain: speculation. Polish has sztuka meaning "art". Now what? (^_^)
    – RegDwigнt
    May 4, 2011 at 20:07
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I've done a little bit of research about this "shtook" slung term and it looks like the Yiddish origin cannot be ruled out so easily.

To sum it up, I've come to the conclusion that the most probable origin is an abbreviation of the phrase shtuck dreck which means piece of crap and it comes from the Jewish community.

Here is some supporting evidence.

1. Wikipedia has an list of article titled "English words used by English-speaking Jews. One entry reads:

    shtick dreck – literally "a piece of dirt" (see Dreck), but usually applied to a person who is hated because of the antisocial things he has done: "He's a real shtuck dreck." Possibly shtick dreck: a piece of crap. Cf. German Stück Dreck.
    NB: In German: Ein Stück means "a piece of" and Dreck in Yiddish means "excrement". Hence the often seen deep in "in deep shtuck". Speaks for itself.


2. The slang dictionary also postulates a Yiddish origin.

    shtuk/shtook/stook/schtuk  in trouble. A very widespread expression which moved from a restricted demi-monde and theatrical usage to common currency in the mid-1960s, partly through its use in the entertainment media. Shtuk in its various spellings is Yiddish for difficulties. ‘In shtuk’ often refers to financial difficulties.

3. I also found in the usenet archives at Google (formerly dejanews) the expression used in the soc.culture.jewish news group:

    They really do stick to their shtuck drek.

4. One possible reason why the word might be deemed as non Yiddish is because it is supposed to come from London (as opposed to NY). However I also found this interpretation:

    ...are ubiquitous in the East End (London) but seem to have been particularly strong around the Bethnal Green/Spittalfields market areas. There is (or was) a strong Jewish immigrant presence in that quarter. It seems quite possible to me that 'shtook' is a joint Cockney-Yiddish development

So despite the Partridge Slang dictionary I'd go for the Yiddish/German origin.

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    Kudos for the leg work, but I don't follow the leap from shtick dreck to in deep shtuck in your NB. Frankly, you seem to have confused yourself there. It's Dreck that means "dirt, crap"; not Stück. So "in deep shtuck" means "in deep piece", which doesn't make any sense. Note also the unexplained (and IMHO inexplicable) jump from shtick to shtuck. That transition makes no sense phonologically. It's very typical of Yiddish to have an I where German would have an Ü. An U is a completely different sound in both languages. In short: that's way too much speculation for my tastes.
    – RegDwigнt
    May 5, 2011 at 11:28
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Perhaps you mean the Yiddish term shtuk:

in shtuk/shtook/stook/schtuk in trouble. A very widespread expression which moved from a restricted demi-monde and theatrical usage to common currency in the mid-1960s, partly through its use in the entertainment media. Shtuk in its various spellings is Yiddish for difficulties. ‘In shtuk’ often refers to financial difficulties.

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  • As there is debate on the issue of Yiddish origin for the term I have decided to undelete my answer.
    – Robusto
    May 5, 2011 at 12:12
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Poking around Google hits for "shtook" I found "schtuck" which is just "stuck" with a goofy pronunciation.

Haha, now you're schtuck.

"Shtook" and its many variants seem common enough to credit but my childhood was probably using "stuck".

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Clive James in The North Face of Soho mentions the first time he heard this word when it was used by television producer Paul Knight in the 60s in London. He used to say they were in 'deep shtuk' although this was later amended to 'deep Took' as their somewhat unimpressed boss was Barry Took.

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I recall members of my family (Romany background, Cockney slang influence?) referring to a schtook, a piece of cloth which was tied around the neck, which makes sense in that if you were in schtook you'd be up to your neck in trouble.

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  • I think that's probably a stock (meaning 24). Could well be the (or an) origin. Jul 28, 2014 at 12:22
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just a suggestion We English have words that are considered unsuitable in polite company and make last second alterations to the word ending to avoid offence.

eg hell becomes heck what the devil becomes what the dickens shit becomes sugar

Could shtook be another example - a last second substitution for shit

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  • This sounds more like a comment than an answer. The stupid site policy probably does not allow you to place a comment with your initial reputation, however still this your remark is not an answer to the OP. Jul 28, 2014 at 13:17
  • It's highly unlikely, surely, that a word beginning /ʃ-/ would be replaced with one beginning /ʃt-/.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:46
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It means "fuck", pure and simple. I used to date a girl and as we went out the door her father said, "Remember no kuppa (canopy used in Jewish wedding), no shtuker".

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    That's shtup, not "shtuck". It even rhymes with chuppah - "No chuppah, no shtuppe". "Shtup" actually literally means "to push"; I particularly enjoy another phrase "to shtup oneself in die hoyecheh fenster" (to push oneself in through the high windows) - meaning "social climbing".
    – MT_Head
    Jan 25, 2014 at 2:53

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