"Fancy schmancy” (less frequently spelled “fancy shmancy") is a Yiddish expression from the early 1900s, meaning that something may be “fancy,” but that it’s really not all that wonderful. The “schm-” prefix has become very popular and is used today by non-Yiddish speakers.
For example, a person from Texas might engage in conversation with a person from New York City. The person from Texas might boast about how large and how rich Texas is. The person from New York City might reply: “Texas Schmexas!”
“Texas Schmexas” (or “Texas Shmexas") is used by people who don’t think that Texas is all that great.
MSN Encarta: Yiddish Definition
Yiddish has also given English two colorful affixes. The first is the suffix -nik, “somebody associated with or characterized by,” for example, peacenik and refusenik, along with creative forms such as “real-estatenik,” “noshnik,” “Freudnik,” “nogoodnik,” and “allrightnik.” Yiddish acquired this form from Russian, and some early words containing it may be directly from that language, but its creativity stems from Yiddish use. The second is schm- or shm-, “somebody or something purported or purporting to be genuine, real, or of the expected high quality but really not.” This prefix creates hyphenated rhyming compounds by replacing the initial consonants or consonant clusters in English words, yielding, for example, “doctor-schmoctor,” “fancy-schmancy,” or by preceding initial vowels ("Elvis-Schmelvis," “opera-shmopera").
Yiddish-Language and Ethnic-Jewish Influence in SAE
There are a number of standard American phrases which originated from Yiddish, including: Get lost, What’s up, I should worry, I should live so long, I need it like a hole in the head, You don’t know from nothin’, Pardon the expression, and Enjoy! Certain types of rhyming slang, especially those where deprecation is shown via partial reduplications, also originated in Yiddish — for example “Joe-schmo” or “Oedipus-schmedipus, so long as he loves his mother.”
Wikipedia: Jewish humour
American Jewish humour
The role of Yiddish
Some Yiddish words may sound comical to an English speaker. Terms like shnook and shmendrik, shlemiel and shlimazel (often considered inherently funny words) were exploited for their humorous sounds, as were “Yinglish” shm-reduplication constructs, such as “fancy-schmancy”. Yiddish constructions—such as ending sentences with questions—became part of the verbal wordplay of Jewish comedians.
The Mavens’ Word of the Day
June 7, 1996
Stanley Newman writes:
FANCY-SCHMANCY: The rhyming second word with SCHM in front is used in a mocking way for many words, right? I saw a new usage in this week’s PEOPLE magazine: GRAVITY-SCHMAVITY (for a Wonderbra ad!). Where did SCHM- come from?
The element schm- (also shm-) is added to the initial part of a word to form what linguists call a “reduplicated rhyming compound” jocularly expressing disparagement or derision of the word. The “schm” sound imitates various words in Yiddish, where the sound is quite common. Many of these words have been borrowed into English, such as schmaltz ‘sentimentality’, schmatte ‘a rag or cheap garment’, schmooze ‘to chat or gossip intimately’, schmuck ‘a jerk’, and others.
This usage is well established in English, going back at least to the 1920s. Your first example, fancy-schmancy, itself goes back to 1935. Although the early examples are primarily from Jewish writers, its current use is widespread, as is demonstrated by the widely promoted Wonderbra ad you mention.
Main Entry: schm-
Variant(s): or shm- \shm\
—used to form a rhyming term of derision by replacing the initial consonant or consonant cluster of a word or by preceding the initial vowel
Phoenix (AZ) New Times
By Peter Gilstrap
Published on February 02, 1995
Of the 43 bands from the Valley that applied for the South by Southwest music conference this year, guess how many were accepted? I’ll give you a hint: No, I won’t. I’ll just tell you. Other than the Refreshments (who are attending under a business arrangement between New Times and the SXSW sponsors), not a one.
Google Groups: soc.singles
From: (Robert Ashcroft)
Date: 15 Feb 1995 20:08:05 -0800
Local: Thurs, Feb 16 1995 12:08 am
Subject: Re: Flamewar (was the huckleberry discusion)
Texas, Schmexas, it’s just Baja Oklahoma.
Google Groups: alt.tv.real-world
From: (Tarvin 14)
Subject: Re: Why no Texas?
Texas, Schmexas. Alaska is bigger and CA has more people.
Google Groups: talk.abortion
Newsgroups: talk.abortion, alt.abortion.inequity, alt.abortion
Subject: Re: Pizzas with an attitude…
Texas-schmexas. Kansas City is the barbeque capital of the world.
Google Groups: rec.motorcycles
From: Michael Freeman
Subject: Re: air cooled in Texas?
Texas, shmexas. Just how much difference do you think an extra 10 C makes to an engine running at >200 C?
New York (NY) Daily News
LEGEND IS PULLING UP ROOTS HOOPS MAVEN IN LAST HURRAH
BY VIC ZIEGEL
Wednesday, September 17th 2003, 7:27AM
Wherever the 62-year-old Feldman is, Texas, Shmexas, he takes the Bronx, circa 1954, with him.
National Review Online - The Corner
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Texas, Shmexas [Jonah Goldberg]
Folks, I have nothing against thanking Texas. I thought that was right and good. Heck I like Texas (one of the best summers of my childhood was spent in Temple, Texas). But i thought it was a weird way to end the speech. It just struck me as a discordant note to strike when you’re trying to be a uniter of the whole United States.
September 08, 2005
Texas, Utah; Schmexas, Schmutah
The Warped Tour ‘08
Friday, July 4, 2008
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, July 08, 2008 • Permalink