Forget about TV’s “Snooki.” A “snook” can be delicious or offensive, but first you need to know what it means.

Does the quasi-actress Snooki ever get called “snookums” at the snooker table by an ichthyologist who studies snook? Let’s unpack this ludicrous question and find out.

You see, Nicole Polizzi, better known as Snooki on the reality TV show “Jersey Shore,” recently faced rejection of the semantic kind. The United States Patent and Trademark Office denied her request to trademark “Snooki” because a 2004 trademark for a book about a cat named Snooky is too similar.

The ubiquity of Ms. Polizzi’s nickname prompted a search for both the personal meaning of her name and its possible roots or branches in the surrounding language. The results are amusing and potentially the centerpiece of a perfect dinner (assuming  the proper balance of ginger and onions.)

The nickname Snooki was apparently inspired by a character in the film “Save the Last Dance” based on Ms. Polizzi’s enthusiasm for amorous activities. Ho-hum. Thankfully, the dictionary gives us the following definition for snook:  ”any basslike fish of the genus Centropomus,  esp. C. undecimalis,  inhabiting waters off Florida and the West Indies and south to Brazil, valued as food and game.” A secondary sense of the word is “a gesture of defiance, disrespect, or derision.”

Snooker is “a variety of pool played with 15 red balls and 6 balls of colors other than red.”  The rules sound tricky, but probably more fun than watching “Jersey Shore.”  To be snookered, however, is “to deceive, cheat, or dupe.”  We would never snooker someone we call snookums, a “sweetheart.”

In closing, we thank Snooki for being the grist for our loopy lexical lollygagging. The only thing that might make our diversion more diverting is if Snooki were kind enough to wear a snood.

Now, don’t you think you should learn how the name of the Smurfs came about because of a mispronunciation? Here’s the answer.


  1. Clinton Snook -  January 23, 2014 - 12:30 pm

    Well I’ve learned a lot about my last name today.

  2. JB Monroe -  June 24, 2012 - 6:57 pm

    @Danliela “Schnooky” in Yiddish (slang German) means “stupid” and not “darling”. That would be an awkward one to get wrong.

  3. BUTTER -  November 5, 2010 - 6:23 am

    correcting myself I meant to say @Dennis i guess** my bad!!!

  4. Dennis -  August 19, 2010 - 5:56 am

    Has American been snookered by Snooki?

  5. Ray Butler -  August 17, 2010 - 4:14 am

    > To be snookered, however, is “to deceive, cheat, or dupe.”

    That’s not how we use the term “snookered” in the snooker-playing capitals of the world, Britain and Ireland. To be snookered is not about malicious deception or cheating: it’s more about being outfoxed by admirable skill and cleverness. It arises in the game of snooker when when your opponent completes a particularly difficult and skilful shot that effectively boxes you in, and leaves you with no alternative but to risk a foul shot. It can sometimes be accidentally self-inflicted as well; you pot a ball, but the white comes to rest in a position which leaves you “snookered” for your next shot.

    When you say “I’ve been snookered” in other contexts, you are acknowledging wryly that your discomfort was brought about by someone else’s skillful manouevre – or perhaps by your own ineptness. If on the other hand you say “I’ve been shafted”, THEN you mean that you have been “deceived, cheated, or duped” and you have no respect for the person who caused it.

  6. Ruth -  August 16, 2010 - 6:25 pm

    Isn’t there a vulgar expression “to cock a snook at”? Possibly meaning to thumb one’s nose at?

  7. paul -  August 16, 2010 - 3:58 pm

    A secondary sense of the word ['snook'] is “a gesture of defiance, disrespect, or derision.”

    This is something I have wondered about for a while: is a ‘snook’ a particular gesture, or is the word a generalisation for any such gesture?

    Is the usage of the word in this sense restricted to particular regions?

  8. Sofie -  August 16, 2010 - 8:54 am

    Who cares she looks like a ompa loompa Amy Weinhouse. So over the butter face guidos and guidas.

  9. Marglo -  August 16, 2010 - 8:34 am

    Smurf is not French. The little blue characters were created in Frech and they are “Schtroumfs”.
    Smurfs are what they are renamed in English because English-speakers can’t get their tongues around the original name.

    That wizard often gets snookered by the little blue ones.

  10. Mark II -  August 16, 2010 - 8:23 am

    a familiar pattern

  11. Mark -  August 16, 2010 - 8:06 am

    It pleases me to think that Snooki might come across this in her daily Googling of herself, and realize wordnerds everywhere are giggling at her fishy name.

  12. Yumean -  August 16, 2010 - 7:37 am

    Is her impishness in the show Baby Snookums that has driven her father into a screaming fit a recipe for getting his attention or is she loved if she is only as sweet as sugar?

  13. Lisa -  August 16, 2010 - 7:10 am

    I’m surprised the Yiddish “schnook” wasn’t referenced here (that’s what I think of her, myself). Amusing article, though.

    From Wikipedia:
    schnook: an easily imposed-upon or cheated person, a pitifully meek person, a particularly gullible person, a cute or mischievous person or child

  14. Buck -  August 16, 2010 - 6:14 am

    Does anyone else remember Snooky Lanson(sp?) on the TV show “Your Hit Parade” back in the 50′s? Or the cartoon figure from even further back, “Baby Snookums”?

  15. tammy -  August 16, 2010 - 5:18 am

    lol thats too funny my dude

  16. Daniela -  August 16, 2010 - 1:07 am

    I believe that ‘snookums’ comes from the German word ‘Schnucki,’ which means darling. So, snooki is somehow getting closer to the original German.

  17. Yumean -  August 16, 2010 - 12:26 am

    It is salt, whose pronouciation in French was the origin of the blue short people-Smurf. Salt is more essential than sugar to a body of a man.

  18. NEW JERSEY | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 15, 2010 - 7:10 pm

    [...] New Jersey, “SNOOK” is the HOT WORD we took. — What Exit you be talkin bout — bet chu could write a friggin [...]


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