I was raised in a home filled with wonderful items which sat on coffee tables and bookshelves, and required only appreciation and dusting. This was my introduction to tchtochkes. The word “tchotchke” derives from a Slavic term for “trinket.” Many gay Jewish men have named their dogs Tchotchke, and Tchotchke would also be the perfect name for a great Russian actress or ballerina from the 1930s, as in The Divine Tchotchke.
A tchotchke is something which you don’t need, and which has no function, but which you can’t live without
Classic tchotchkes include the following:
decorative wooden nutcrackers
carved teak salad tongs which are meant to be used as a wall ornament
any wooden or wire bowl which has so many open spaces that it can’t possibly hold anything
marble eggs and spheres; 12″ high marble obelisks; spheres woven from bark or reeds
any religious item, divorced from suffering: a Wedgewood crucifix, or a porcelain Orthodox Rabbi
paperweights given as gifts in a paperless era
faux tortoiseshell anything
Murano glass, especially the swirling clown figurines
Non-working Sixties table lighters
Anything purchased at a street fair or open-air market in another country
fancy tchotchkes: fragments of ancient statuary (especially hands, feet or noses), Venetian papier-mache masks, anything displayed on a lucite cube or a tiny metal stand
Collections of anything: salt-and-pepper shakers, shot glasses, cocktail shakers, swizzle sticks, Russian nesting dolls, commemorative thimbles, etc.
All awards, once the winner takes them home, become tchotchkes, especially Daytime Emmys
A tchotchke is often something which is designed to look like something else, for example, a ceramic pitcher shaped like a cabbage, or a coaster shaped like a tiny sled
The Kardashians are human tchotchkes, as are all celebrity babies
Artist Jeff Koons is the grand tchotchkemeister of our time, reaping millions from his outsize balloon animals and Michael Jackson figurines. The only way that Koons’ work could be an even greater celebration of rampant tchotchke-ism, would be if each piece included the shreds of a gooey pricetag which someone had tried to scrape off with their fingernail.