Shpeel is the misspelled version of the German word for game; spiel, which in English is used to refer to the mindless, pre-learned sales pitch, vendors and merchants are bombing the unsuspecting with and possibly play them into buying some of the useless products offered.
The term made it into the English language in its current sense in the final decades of the 1800’s, more specifically around the 1880’s or 1890’s.
Its roots lie in the German spiel, as well as the Yiddish shpil, both of which convey meanings of playing or games.
A possible origin for this peculiar spelling, found in the title lies within the Yiddish spelling of shpil, which most likely got anglicized, by replacing the letter “i” with double “e”-s.
Spread and Usage
The phrase had already taken roots in the 20th century, thanks to people reminding themselves, that the pitches, salesperson present them with are usually “shpeels”, simple mind games for tricking the client into buying the product, as well as some additional extras.
Urban Dictionary had defined spiel in 2004, while the entry on this spelling of the term was uploaded in 2007.
The term is widely recognized, even outside of the Anglosphere, as it is present in various European languages as well.
- Urban Dictionary – Shpeel