Entering the cathedral of
Kraców, you can't help noticing, that high on the left-hand side, are
huge bones, bound by rusty chains.
in legend, are the remains of the local dragon, Smok Wawelski (pictured
below). The exact details vary a bit, but a long time ago this dragon
lived in a cave lower down on the rock than the modern cathedral (and
still accessible to visitors).
dragon terrorized and ravaged the land thereabout, because dragons do
("fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, dragons gotta terrorize and
ravage"). However, as happens often with mega-fauna, open conflict with
the interests of humans led to it being slain.
Wawelski" sounds like the dragon's personal name (usually not mentioned
in dragon-lore). But Smok is just old Polish for dragon or snake (like "worm" in Anglo-Saxon),
and the second part comes from the location, Wawel being the rock on
which the cathedral was founded, post-dragon. So this was just the Wawel
might be the origin — and it's controversial — of the word schmuch (and
many variant spellings), which means "a contemptible person", according
to the Oxford English Dictionary. The origin is the Yiddish word for
penis (I never knew that before!), and it's a taboo word in that
language. The possible connection is with snake. The OED records the
slang term "trouser snake" to mean, well, penis.
scholars don't agree with this derivation. No-one will never know the
etymology for sure: unless there is a continuous documentary record of a
word's use we can never be certain where it came from: and in fact the origin of a word
can follow two or more parallel strands. Given the taboo associations
it's even more hard to trace.
Coffins in the crypt hold those of Jagiellonian kings. Bones on the wall belonged to Pleistocene whales.
And I wonder where the name "Smaug" came from.