My Grandmother on my mother’s side was Agnes, but the adults in the family referred to her as “Schart”, and I never knew where that name came from or what it meant. Given that my Grandfather Shively probably was responsible for initiating the “nickname”, and considering that Shively is a typical German name, I assumed it to be something like the Spanish equivalent, where you can properly use words like “flaca” and “chapo” in sentences, but using them as names gives them a somewhat different meaning.
Her maiden name was Albright or Albrecht (not sure which), and I always believed that Schart was one of those words that had gotten lost over the last few hundred years in the regions that now make up southern Germany. In Schart’s case, she was undoubtedly given the name because she had a unique ability to find the worst in people, prone to turn a compliment directed to her into an insult[i]If she was 80 and someone said she looked 10 years younger after getting her hair done, she might say, “oh, 80 instead of 90?, and cantankerous to the max, My Grandfather, Harry, would often say, perhaps with her in mind, “some people would bitch if you hung them with a new rope”.[ii]My Dad didn’t write much about the Shivelys, so I will try to follow on where he left off when time allows.
Traveling in Germany, which I often did in the 1980s, working for Siemens in Munich, I would always ask my German colleagues about the term. The answer always came back that they acknowledged it to clearly be a German word, probably rooted in the old Bavarian or Schwabish language, but none could explain its meaning, at least they chose not to explain it.
Then one day I got a chance to ask my adopted granddaughter, Victoria, who had lived in Europe for quite some years and who is fluent in Swedish, which of course has strong underpinnings from German. She immediately said, “oh, shit disturber” [iii]A person who causes needless difficulties or distress for others; a troublemaker., and at last the mystery was solved.
So my use of the term in the future will be to describe one who is disagreeable, ornery, answers every question with a NO, and is negative in every way. At the same time, I remember Schart as the Grandma who often said to me, “Ich liebe meinen kleinen schnickelfritz”. Of course, I had no idea what those words meant at the time but I can feel her warm arms around me and sense the fragrance of her closeness to this day.
Written: circa 2019
Published: December 2022
Reader feedback always appreciated[iv]. . thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts
|↑i||If she was 80 and someone said she looked 10 years younger after getting her hair done, she might say, “oh, 80 instead of 90?|
|↑ii||My Dad didn’t write much about the Shivelys, so I will try to follow on where he left off when time allows.|
|↑iii||A person who causes needless difficulties or distress for others; a troublemaker.|
|↑iv||. . thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts|