A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 16, 2010
Schmear (Schmeer; Shmear; Shmeer)

Jewish New Yorkers sometimes order a “bagel with schmear” (or “bagel mit schmear"). The Yiddish word “schmear” (other spellings include “schmeer,” “shmear,” or “shmeer") means “smear,” as in a “spread” of cream cheese on a bagel.

“Shmeer” has been cited in print since at least 1958. “The whole shmear” (meaning “the whole nine yards,” or everything) has been cited in print since at least 1962.


Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Origin of SCHMEAR
Yiddish shmir smear
First Known Use: 1965

(Oxford English Dictionary)
schmeer, n.
Also shmear, shmeer. [ad. Yiddish schmirn to smear, grease, flatter.]
1958 J. WEIDMAN Enemy Camp ii. 218 Those ham sandwiches. Pieces of cardboard with a shmeer of pink paint in between.
1974 N.Y. Times 7 Apr. X. 26/2 Passing up the Plaza’s tempting but outrageously priced cafĂ© complet in favor of an English [muffin] with a shmear and a cup of regular at a nearby coffee shop.
1993 P. MULDOON in M. Bradbury & A. Motion New Writing 2 192 After all that I wait in line for a bagel with lox and a schmear.

Google Books
Tales of Hoffman
By William Hoffman
Minneapolis, MN: Denison
1961
Pg. 109:
There, in addition to my briefing, I had a cup of cocoa, oatmeal and a warm bagel with shmeer cheese.

Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project
18 May 1962, Jewish Chronicle, “Barney Glazer’s Glazed Bits of Hollywood,” pg. 23, col. 1:
All well and fine, except the whole shmear usually is published in the newspapers anyway, when the divorce case is heard in court.

Google Books
A rage to nosh
By Ruth Grossman and Bob Grossman
New York, NY: Galahad Books
1966
Pg. 58:
Now cut in half each bagel and shmear some of the cream cheese on each one.

Google Books
The center of the action
By Jerome Weidman
New York, NY: Random House
1969
Pg. 83:
You’re satisfied with a toasted bagel and perhaps a smear of cream cheese?

Google Books
The Manhattan home furnishings shopping guide
By Elaine Louie
New York, NY: Collier Books
1979
Pg. 7:
Yet they are entirely capable of selling you a sheet, talking on the phone to another customer, and telling a neophyte salesperson to get him a “coffee regular and a bagel with a schmear.”

Google Books
Sisters
By Debby Mayer
New York, NY: Putnam
1982
Pg. 151:
“Do you want your bagel with or without a schmeer?”

11 April 1984, New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), pg. C1, col. 5: 
When slathered with cream cheese, called a “schmeer” in New York, they (bagels—ed.) are enough for lunch.

Google Books
How to feed friends and influence people:
The Carnegie Deli
A giant sandwich, a little deli, a huge success

By Milton Parker (Owner of the Carnegie Deli) and Allyn Freeman
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
2005
Pg. 59 (Deli Slang):
Schmear Cream cheese

Google Books
Teacher Man:
A Memoir

By Frank McCourt
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
2006
Pg. 132:
I tell them that when I came to New York I had trouble with language and the names of things. I had to learn food words: sauerkraut, cole slaw, hot dog, bagel mit a schmeer.

Google Books
New York City For Dummies
By Myka Carroll
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
2008
Pg. 287:
Bagel with a Schmear
If there is anything more simply satisfying than a fresh, piping-hot bagel topped with a schmear of cream cheese, I don’t know what it is.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, September 16, 2010 • Permalink