Is shmoozing an art or a science? It’s surely not the most elevated use of speech. We gab to impress or entertain each other, to persuade or do a deal, and sometimes just to pass the time. Call it the Jewish version of shooting the breeze, or what one linguistics professor dubbed “chatting with benefits.”
The origin of the word confirms this negative association: Shmooze comes from the Yiddish shmuessen, which in turn derives from the Hebrew sh’muah, meaning tidings or rumor (read: juicy gossip). And yet who hasn’t heard of the “mussar schmooze,” that hallmark of the beit medrash that’s as far away from empty chitchat as you can get? (In Hebrew, this type of discourse, designed to inspire moral improvement, is known as a sicha.)
So is schmooze, the noun, simply more positive than schmooze, the verb? Or perhaps this is an example of all things having the potential to be utilized for good. Either way, since there would be no friendships without shmoozing (come to think of it, politics would grind to a halt!), I say let’s chat on – and try our best to keep it kosher.