I’ve always wondered in a vague, half-assed way about the origin of the term “the schneid,” which crops up mostly in the context of sports. You don’t often hear about someone being “on the schneid” (i.e. stuck on zero, scoreless, winless); more commonly, when a team posts its first point of the game or wins its first game of the series, you are notified that they are now “off the schneid.”

I was inspired to do a little research by a headline in today’s Oakland Tribune, which declared the hapless Raiders “off the schnide” after having defeated the even haplesser Arizona Cardinals. Seeing this, I realized that I’d never actually seen the word written down before; I’d always assumed it was spelled “schneid” and somehow related to the surname “Schneider,” perhaps the tragic legacy of some poor bastard who never got any. (See also: “Munsoned.”)

This proved to be more difficult than I expected. Nothing in Webster’s, either print or online. No Wikipedia entry. A Google search turned up many examples of usage (all favoring the more intuitive “schneid” over the Trib’s bizarre “schnide”), but no exegesis. Finally I found the following on word-detective.com:

“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. “Schneider” first appeared in the literature of card-playing about 1886, but the shortened form “schneid” used in other sports is probably of fairly recent vintage.

I am willing to buy this explanation for the most part, though I still suspect that the term may derive from some actual Schneider who was a really sucky card player, similar to baseball’s Mendoza Line. But in any case, I am now off the schneid for the week of October 23.