Entries linking to smear-case
Middle English smeren, from Old English smerian, smierwan, smyrian "anoint or rub with ointment, oil, etc.," from Proto-Germanic *smerwjan "to spread grease on" (source also of Old Norse smyrja "to anoint, rub with ointment," Danish smøre, Swedish smörja, Dutch smeren, Old High German smirwen "apply salve, smear," German schmieren "to smear;" Old Norse smör "butter"), from PIE *smeru- "grease" (source also of Greek myron "unguent, balsam," Old Irish smi(u)r "marrow," Old English smeoru "fat, grease, ointment, tallow, lard, suet," Lithuanian smarsas "fat").
Originally especially "to anoint," but also in Old English "overspread too thickly with something thick or sticky." In modern use also of bad painting or makeup. The figurative sense of "assault a public reputation" is by 1835; especially "dishonor or besmirch with unsubstantiated charges." Related: Smeared; smearing. Smear-word, one used regardless of its literal meaning but invested with invective, is from 1938.
also schmeer, 1961, "bribery," from Yiddish shmir "spread," from shmirn "to grease, smear," from Middle High German smiren, from Old High German smirwen "to smear" (see smear (v.); compare slang grease (someone's) palm "to bribe"). Phrase the whole schmear "the entire affair" is attested by 1969, originally show business jargon,
"curd of milk coagulated, separated from the whey, pressed, and used as food," Old English cyse (West Saxon), cese (Anglian) "cheese," from West Germanic *kasjus (source also of Old Saxon kasi, Old High German chasi, German Käse, Middle Dutch case, Dutch kaas), from Latin caseus "cheese" (source of Italian cacio, Spanish queso, Irish caise, Welsh caws).
This is of unknown origin; perhaps (Watkins) from a PIE root *kwat- "to ferment, become sour" (source also of Prakrit chasi "buttermilk;" Old Church Slavonic kvasu "leaven; fermented drink," kyselu "sour," -kyseti "to turn sour;" Czech kysati "to turn sour, rot;" Sanskrit kvathati "boils, seethes;" Gothic hwaþjan "foam").
But de Vaan writes, "no etymology can be found which does not require some poorly-founded assumptions," and suggests a loan-word. Also compare fromage. Old Norse ostr, Danish ost, Swedish ost are related to Latin ius "broth, sauce, juice."
The earliest references would be to compressed curds of milk used as food; pressed or molded cheeses with rinds are from 14c. Transferred to other cheese-like substances by 1530s. As a photographer's word to make subjects hold a smile, it is attested from 1930, but in a reminiscence of schoolboy days, which suggests an earlier use. Probably for the forced smile involved in making the -ee- sound.
Green cheese is that newly made; the notion that the moon is made of green cheese as a type of a ridiculous assertion is from 1520s. To make cheeses (1835) was a schoolgirls' amusement of wheeling rapidly so one's petticoats blew out in a circle then dropping down so they came to rest inflated and resembling a wheel of cheese; hence, used figuratively for "a deep curtsy." Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) defines head cheese as "The ears and feet of swine cut up fine, and, after being boiled, pressed into the form of a cheese."
updated on January 27, 2023