My wife and I happened to catch Sullivan’s Travels on television (a wonderful movie which I’ve seen several times before—like Preston Sturges’s other movies of the early 1940s, it never gets old) and I noticed in the credits that Harry Rosenthal was billed as “The Trombenick.” Naturally, I wanted to know what that odd-sounding word meant, and thanks to Google I quickly learned that it’s a Yiddish word (usually transliterated trombenik), according to this site meaning either “lazy person, ne’er-do-well” or “boastful loudmouth, bullshitter” and according to this one “faker; bum; ne’er-do-well.” What I’m still wondering is why Rosenthal’s character is so designated; does anybody know? And of course any further information about the Yiddish word will be appreciated.


  1. “Boastful loudmouth, bullshitter” is the sense I know: etymologically, it’s a trumpet player, thus one who blows his own horn. Trumpet players may have had a reputation for laziness, too; I don’t know about that.

  2. Perhaps in this context, it is closer to Anderson‘s “Trombenick – A Jewish hobo. They are scarce as hen’s teeth.” (See Coleman Vol. III.)
    In the script I believe it’s just “Weary-willies.”

  3. Radan Rusanov says:

    “Тръба” is Bulgarian for “pipe” – “ъ” tends to stem from either a nasal /o/ or a hypershort /u/. To have a reflex in Yiddish (as would have taken the word from Polish, which still retains its nasals) it must come from OCS /trɔ̃ba/ – pronounced “tromba”. Therefore it seems related somehow to trumpet playing, or pipe-laying perhaps?

  4. Harkavy doesn’t list the word. He does list trumpeter / טרובאטש /trobatch (or perhaps trubatch); trumpet, horn, fife / טרובע / trubeh; and to trumpet, to blow the trumpet / טרובען / truben.

  5. Incidentally, Polish trąbnik is recorded as meaning a trumpet maker rather than a player.

  6. It means something like “freeloader,” and although I think you hear it rarely nowadays, you can find it referred to in Stutshkov’s thesaurus:
    and in an article in the philological journal Yidishe shprakh:
    Erudition thanks to R’ Ontsigndiker Google.

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