The Schmatta Discussion

Friday, July 3rd 2015, the discussion in my store evolved around the Yiddish word Schmatta. A customer came in looking to buy a Schmatta. She is Jewish as well as my visiting friend so we had a very 

Yiddish conversation.

Now I am a transplanted Irish/ raised Catholic from a small non Jewish town in Canada. Although I have familiarized myself throughout the years of living in NYC  with Yiddish slang, I am not an expert in all of its “rich expressions, especially terms of endearment (and of course, complaints and insults)”. I have to admit, I am most familiar with the term Schmatta. Since I own a clothing store, the word has come up occasionally. For obvious reasons, hopefully it was not directed at my merchandise.

My customer reflected on her childhood, remembering days gone by as her mother begged her not wear her Schmatta as she left the house. As I child I remember an irate mother wearing a Moo Moo ( an Irish Catholic Schmatta from the 60’s) screaming at her teenage daughter as she left for school, hurling insults and threatening the poor girl with

Catholic mother guilt

and the horrors of teenage promiscuity. I remember worshiping the stubborn girl for repelling the parental control  as she hussled down the street towards high school wearing Bell Bottom Jeans! These were my memories of my Schmattas of my youth. I know it may not be exactly the same, but pretty darn close.

My customer promised me that a Schmatta was not really just a rag. To her, it could be something she could just cast on, an easy wear, something to throw at the chair or crumple in a ball when coming through the door at the end of the day. My girlfriend told a story of waiting for the bus as a child with her grandmother yelling out the window to come back in the house and at least

iron that Schmatta!

Although I do not want to hear the adjective Schmatta when a customer looks at my merchandise, I do want them to think of my clothing as cozy and comfortable and wearable and livable. Maybe that is really what a Schmatta is. Like Linus’s blanket!

Like Linus’s blanket!


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