UF linguistics professor's new book defends value of a good schmooze
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What’s so bad about schmoozing?
In modern parlance, schmoozers are synonymous with users: Smooth talkers with something to gain from the conversation. University of Florida linguistics professor Diana Boxer’s new book seeks to redeem “schmoozing,” a word that originally carried no negative connotation, but simply referred to a chat that built goodwill between its participants.
“The Lost Art of the Good Schmooze: Building Rapport and Defusing Conflict in Everyday and Public Talk” (Praeger Publishers) is Boxer’s first title for a mainstream audience. While it’s not meant as a self-help book, it does offer examples and suggestions that Boxer hopes can help readers reclaim the pleasures of a good schmooze.
“The meaning of ‘schmooze’ has changed from chatting to chatting up,” Boxer said. “The ‘up’ part denigrates what used to be a positive interaction, one that was just chatting for the warm feelings of pure interaction.”
In the book, Boxer offers examples of conversations from politics, talk shows, movies and real-life exchanges that show how schmoozing can build positive feelings in five areas: in social interactions, among family, in the workplace, in education and in cross-cultural interactions.
“This book looks at how engaging in casual chat can enhance our sense of happiness and belonging,” said Andrew Cohen, a linguistics professor at the University of Minnesota. “It explores how good schmoozing can help us make friends, improve relationships with family and get ahead at school or work.”
Derived from the Yiddish word “shmuesn,” schmooze was first recorded in English in 1897, when its meaning was roughly synonymous with “shooting the breeze,” Boxer said.
“Now, its meaning has changed to ‘chatting with benefits,’” she said. “We think of it more like networking or working the room.”
When chatting for chatting’s sake is lost, however, much is lost with it, Boxer said.
“Nowadays, we’re so caught up in multitasking, there’s very little chatting over the backyard fence. Even our schmoozing is truncated,” she said. “When we lose that, our social health and well-being suffers. I hope the book can help readers reclaim that sense of connection.”