Have you seen the word “tchotchke” before? At first glance, it kind of looks like a weird jumble of letters. You might even think it’s spelled “chachki.” Well, here’s the thing – this is a real word with a place in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and it starts with a silent “t.”

So where exactly does this word come from? How is it even pronounced? Let’s dive into that and so much more in this guide to all things tchotchkes!

What is a Tchotchke?

A tchotchke is defined as an inexpensive item that is usually more decorative than functional. These little trinkets sit on office desks, shelves at home, or on your clothing, adding a bit of personality to the space.

Think about Funko Pops, little LEGO figurines, the prizes you get in cereal boxes, and the pins you can buy at Hot Topic. All of these popular items could be considered tchotchkes.

Synonyms for Tchotchke:

  • Doodad
  • Knick knack
  • Trinket
  • Bauble
  • Souvenir
  • Doohickey
  • Novelty
  • Swag
  • Gismo
  • Thingamajig
  • Thingamabob

How Do You Pronounce Tchotchkes?

You pronounce the word “tchotchkes” as chotch-keys. The “t” in the front is completely silent both times it’s used, which makes it a frustrating word to learn how to spell.

The correct way to spell “tchotchke” is with the silent “t”. Here are some alternate spellings that people have used:

  • Chotskie
  • Chotchkey
  • Chochkey
  • Chatskie
  • Chachki
  • Tchochka
  • Tchotke

Here Are Some Examples of Tchotchkes

Precious Moment Figurines
Garden Gnomes

As mentioned, tchotchkes don’t have an inherent purpose. You can’t really use them, and they’re more decorative than they are functional.

According to popular blog Grammarphobia, the “t” is silent in many words like “tchotchkes,” “listen,” “and “beret” because it’s too difficult or awkward to pronounce it with the surrounding consonants. It still doesn’t explain why we even need the “t” in the first place, but it does help shed some light on why some words are pronounced in unexpected ways.  

Where Does the Word Tchotchke Come From?

The word “tchotchke”  has a fascinating origin. It’s actually Yiddish and has long been used by Jewish-Americans, especially those in New York City, to describe not only random trinkets, but also beautiful women.

Nowadays it’s almost always associated with the promotional products industry, otherwise known as branded swag and novelty items. Think the little items that sit on your desk, the odds and ends on your shelves at home, and the figurines sitting in your grandmother’s display cabinet. These are all tchotchkes!

What Are the Pros of Buying Tchotchkes?

If you’re interested in advertising a company or cause, you can get a ton of exposure by printing your name or logo on tchotchkes. People love these odds and ends for a number of reasons.

Here are all the pros of buying tchotchkes:

#1: Word will spread

People who receive a cool free tchotchke are 20% more likely to talk about it on social media.

#2: Increases happiness and social connections

Gift giving and receiving, even if it’s a small tchotchke, has been proven to make you feel happier and more likely to start a conversation.  

#3: More customers at your business

Many people like getting some kind of gift with purchase or freebie from a company. In fact, 83% of people are more likely to do business with a company if they give them something for free, even if it’s a simple tchotchke.

#4: Higher traffic to your trade show booth

A study from Exhibit Surveys Inc. found that booths with tchotchkes on display had higher traffic than companies that showed up with nothing. These are the booths that actually handed out the giveaways in an interesting way.

#5: Boosts productivity, creativity, and energy

The Journal of Environmental Psychology found that decorating your workspace with items like tchotchkes will make you feel more productive, inspired, and energized.

Tchotchkes are just plain fun. People like receiving these small items for free and are likely to tell others about it. Not only that, but they will also feel happier and more energized by these giveaways.

What Are the Cons of Buying Tchotchkes?

On the other hand, tchotchkes are often looked at as a waste of money and resources. Let’s dive into that side of the argument as well.

Here are the cons of buying tchotchkes:

#1: Bad for the environment

Some tchotchkes take a lot of resources to create, but eventually end up in the trash. This is alarming as the average American tosses 5 pounds per day into landfills.

#2: Low quality

Poorly made tchotchkes use materials that fall apart easily. They also tend to look cheap and a little tacky.

#3: Shorter shelf life

Certain tchotchkes end up being given away or tossed into a drawer and forgotten about. They may be exciting when they’re first picked up, but the novelty eventually wears off.

#4: May be completely ignored

If you lay out a bunch of tchotchkes for people to take, say at a trade show, they may just walk right by. It’s really up to you to use them and hand them out in an engaging way.

#5: Creates clutter

In this overcrowded world, the last thing you need is more stuff and clutter. The worst tchotchkes are useless, boring, and do nothing but take up more room.

Value is everything. You don’t want to just buy tchotchkes for the sake of buying them. Take some time to look for something unique and useful, but also affordable.

Tchotchkes were the bane of Jennifer Aniston’s existence in the cult classic, Office Space. Check out the famous scene!

Are All Promotional Products Tchotchkes?

To put it simply, no. Not all promotional products are considered tchotchkes and here’s why. There are plenty of custom items out there that are more practical than decorative and are also of premium quality.

Check out these high-end custom products!

Trendy Drinkware

Drinkware is having a moment. In fact, it’s super fashionable to carry around a stylish water bottle, tumbler, glass, or mug. You can’t go wrong customizing an Instagram-ready piece of drinkware!

Hardcover Notebooks

Do you want your giveaways to have some class? Go with sophisticated hardcover notebooks!  They’re easy to slip into a bag and are perfect for to-do lists and meeting notes. 

Stylish Bags

Canvas tote bags are pretty popular, especially at trade shows and conferences. Kick your bags up a notch by going with a stylish material like jute or cotton. 

Fleece Apparel

Apparel is always a favorite with the crowd, but it’s even better when it’s made from a cozy material like fleece. You can add your logo to blankets, hoodies, zip-ups, and more!

Kitchenware

There is a variety of kitchenware you can customize with your design, from bowls and plates to whisks, and cutting boards.

Yoga Mats

In this busy world, more and more people are turning to yoga and meditation. These yogis can be reminded of your brand every day if you add your logo to a squishy yoga mat.

Hand Sanitizers

There are a lot of germs out there, especially in public places! A portable hand sanitizer keeps you protected and helps prevent any harmful bacteria from invading your system.

Phone Chargers

We are all glued to our cell phones. It’ll be easier to keep people at a 100% charge if you hand out custom chargers or power bricks as a free giveaway at your next event.

Overall, the more useful an item, the less likely it is to be considered a tchotchke. Drinkware, clothing, phone chargers, yoga mats… these are all things people would love receiving as a gift. 

Final Thoughts

A tchotchke doesn’t have to be something cheap and pointless. It’s up to you to not just grab any old keychain or stress ball and call it a day. The people receiving this stuff deserve better than that!

The tchotchkes at Quality Logo Products® check off all the boxes. Quality is literally in our name. You can find fun little giveaways that are right in your budget, but don’t fall apart after five minutes. They will be used and loved by the people who receive them for years!

References

Vocabulary. Tchotchke. Retrieved from, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/tchotchke

DiGiose, N. (2019, August 21). Nine Gift-Related Facts You Didn’t Know. Retrieved from, https://www.goodsey.com/gift-blog/gifting-advice/nine-gift-giving-facts-you-didnt-know/

White, M. (2013, June 24). 5 Ways Companies Win By Giving Away Free Stuff. Retrieved from, https://business.time.com/2013/06/24/5-ways-companies-win-by-giving-stuff-away/

McNulty, G. (2018, January 1). How Decorating Your Workspace Benefits You and Your Business. Retrieved from, https://team-prestige.com/blog/workspace/decorating-your-workspace-benefits/

Houston, C. (2019, June 28). Why Trade Show Giveaways Are Important. Retrieved from, https://www.godelta.com/blog/why-trade-show-giveaways-are-important

Borenstein, S. (2015, September 21). The US Government Grossly Underestimated How Much Trash We Throw in Landfills. Retrieved from, https://www.businessinsider.com/ap-study-twice-as-much-trash-put-in-landfills-than-estimated-2015-9

Grammarphobia. (2012, January 2). Why is “T” Often Silent? Retrieved from, https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2012/01/silent-t.html

Image sources:

Precious Moment: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/549650329502958303/

Gnome: https://www.incandescentwaxmelts.com/product/garden-gnome-scentsy-warmer/

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.