In February, 2005, a self-styled summit on online social networking was held in cyberspace, with no identifiable geographical locus. Blogosphere old-timers as well as newcomers like me have become familiar with Flickr, del.icio.us, Technorati, and other Internet entities (internentitites?) for establishing connections between people, at the core of which, are blogs themselves. (See my recent post on Blogger's Block.)
I advocate a new term for "online social networking," cyberschmoozing, which could be broadened to include the less sophisticated forms such as email joke lists. (Spamming, I contend, is definitely NOT online social* networking.)
The origin of cyberschmoozing, of course, is the Yiddish word schmooze (also spelled shmoos, shmus, etc.) If I am going to promote the use of cyberschmoozing (which I did not invent: do a google search), I'd better know more about the origin of the term.
Though my parents did not speak Yiddish and only occasionally used a Yiddish word when there appeared to be no English substitute for it, as schoolboy I learned that schmoozing was a pleasant, relaxed act of informal conversation which tended to cement relationships. I grew up assuming that schmoozing, like many Yiddish words, was derived from German. Therefore, I looked up schmusen (what I expected to be the German verb form for schmooze) on dict.cc, a German translation site, and received the following screen:
Uh, oh! To smooch? It does sound a bit like schmooze. But kissing, or kissing up, or any kind of smooching does not fit my definition of online social networking. Cuddling is not much better (I don't even cuddle up to my wireless mouse) and, in my limited experience, was not enthusiastically promoted by Yiddish speakers, especially Litvaks.
But what is this canoodling? I've heard of Canucks, noodling for fish and on the guitar, and doodling, but no canoodling. A google search for define:canoodle revealed "slang; fondle or pet affectionately". It appears that I've passed my sixtieth birthday without ever having canoodled knowingly, though I have performed many similar acts.
Not wanting to promote cyberschmoozing as a form of online canoodling, I did further research. Lillian M. Feinsilver's The Taste of Yiddish (the author is the wife of my childhood rabbi) asserts that schmooze comes from the Hebrew sh'muoth, news or tales, but mentions no canoodling Germans. Likewise the Online Etymological Dictionary, which dates the term schmoozer back to 1909, attributes it to the same Hebrew source. Columbia professor Uriel Weinreich's Yiddish-English Dictionary translates the Yiddish verb shmu'sn as "talk, converse, chat," with nary an intimation of anything remotely resembling a smooch.
The next step, logically was in Internet search for the Hebrew word "sh'muah" or the plural "sh'muoth". Could this be done using a Latin character set? Yes! It appears that sh'muah, the past participle of sh'ma (the name of the most important Jewish prayer, "Hear O Israel"), means "heard", or "that which is heard", and there are multiple Orthodox Jewish websites referring to the term in a sense of religious law. There is even a website, shmuot.com, listing events of Jewish significance in and around Toronto (Safari users beware).
The term cyberschmoozing appears to be safe for universal Internet use. As for the German-speaking readers of Jonathan's Coffeeblog, of whom I have at least one, and hope for many more, if they intend that online social networking will lead to schmusen of all kinds, not necessarily limited to cuddling and smooching, I wish them spectacular success.—JDL
[*Spamming, in my opinion, is online antisocial networking, for which I propose the term "cybershtupping."]
Got some time to kill? Or maybe not, but any excuse will do to avoid doing something of great importance? Try cyberschmoozing by clicking these tag links: cuddling yiddish kiss Toronto . (Hey, cut 'em a little slack on the download time.)
Copyright ©2004-2005 Jonathan David Leavitt