Original First Edition of Games People Play 1964

Original First Edition of Games People Play from Eric Berne’s private library.

Thesis:  The term “schlemiel” does not refer to the hero of Chammiso’s novel, who was a man without a shadow, but to a popular Yiddish word allied to the German and Dutch words for cunning. The Schlemiel’s victim, who is something like the “Good-Natured Fellow” of Paul de Kock, is colloquially called the Schlemazl. The moves in a typical game of “Schlemiel” are as follows:

1W. White spills a highball on the hostess’s evening gown.

1B. Black (the host) responds initially with rage, but he sense (often only vaguely) that if he shows it, White wins. Black therefore pulls himself together, and this gives him the illusion that he wins.

2W. White says “I’m sorry.”

2B. Black mutters or cries forgiveness, strengthening his illusion that he wins.

3W. White then proceeds to inflict other damage on Black’s property. He breaks things, spills things and makes messes of various kinds. After the cigarette burn in the tablecloth, the chair leg through the lace curtain and the gravy on the rug, White’s Child is exhilarated because he has enjoyed himself in carrying out these procedures, for all of which he has been forgiven, while Black has made a gratifying display of suffering self-control. Thus both of them profit from an unfortunate situation, and Black is not necessarily anxious to terminate the friendship.

The description of this game on this page is incomplete.  For a complete description of this game, refer to Games People Play.