the schmooze


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Whoever said that "gelt" can't buy "glik" (happiness), didn't know where to shop. And when Adam and Eve were in the "Gan Aiden" (Garden of Eden), they did not have to concern themselves with the urge to " Shop Till You Drop," compulsive shopping disease, Dress Down Fridays, Blue Light specials, or Tommy Hilfiger pins which are emblazoned with the phrase, "Just Lookin." "Lebn" (life) was so much simpler.

This holiday season, Americans plan to spend $738M on holiday gifts.

Shown below are some "Great Moments in Shopping History":


To hide the fact that she was "shvanger" (pregnant) Queen Juana of Portugal wore the first hoop "rekl" (skirt).
1644 The word "mall" first appears in the English language.

Levi Strauss arrived in San Francisco and founded Levi Strauss & Co. Many years later, R. W. Jackson defined a "Levite" as a noun meaning "one who wears jeans religiously."

(Oct. 28) During R. H. Macy's "ershter" (first) day in business, the Manhattan store took in $11.06 in sales.

Shopping bag invented. Oy, what an "oysgefins" (invention)!


Wanamakers announces their "money back "garantirn" (guarantee) in a Philadelphia newspaper.

Spiegel publishes its first catalog in Chicago.


First Neiman Marcus store opens in Dallas...and we see the first example of "disorienta"--n. When Aunt Sadie gets lost in a department store and strikes up a conversation with everyone she passes.
1920 Frieda Leohman (Loehmann's) starts selling overstocks out of her Brooklyn "heym" (home).

Maternity clothes were shown for the "ershter" (first) time.

1925 Sears, Roebuck & Co. opens its first store in Chicago.

Holeproof "zoknvarg" (hosiery), with ads for Beige, Orchid and Sunburn shades, make "zayd" (silk) stockings necessities rather than luxuries.


Sears hired movie queens like Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, and Loretta Young to help sell fashions and accessories.


"Der universal-krom" (The dept. store), Bloomingdale's, opens its $3 million building in Manhattan, occupying the block bounded by 60th and 59th streets from Lexington to Third Avenue.


Wanamaker's Dept. Store introduces revolving "kredit" (credit).

1944 The be-all-and-end-all "matone" (gift) was a Frank Sinatra "plate" (record), 78, of course!

The teenage "meydl" (girl), who used to wear children's clothes until she was old enough to switch to grown up fashions, now has styles of her own.

Coeds purchased neat "shvarts" (black) flats, rather than saddle shoes, and wore them on "universitet" (college) campuses.

During "Lucymania," Marshall Field Dept. Store switched "ovnt" (evening) hours from Monday to Thursday so customers could watch "I Love Lucy."

Elvis Presley "lipnshtift" (lipstick) was marketed with tempting colors named "Tender Pink," "Tutti Frutti Red," and "Heartbreak Pink."
  Empire Sportswear (Long Island, NY), became the first L. I. store to install a $10,000 closed-circuit TV system that pans the "gants" (entire) store.

"Di paruk" (The wig) arrived as fashion accessories.


Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart.


Dan Greenberg ("How To Be a Jewish Mother") writes, "Never buy a garment that fits--it should be two or three sizes too large so that the child can grow into it."

The Gap opens its first store in San Francisco.


Bloomingdale's opens a "spetsyel" (special) shop devoted to Ralph Lauren's "klayder" (clothing) line.

Martin Marcus ("The Power of Yiddish Thinking") wrote, "A $200 gift certificate is Yiddish. Five hundred dollars worth of presents is Goyish."


Hillary Rodham neglected "to koyfn" (to buy) her wedding "kleyd" (dress) until the last possible moment, racing into a Fayetteville department store shortly before it closed. She purchased a high-waisted Victorian- style dress off the rack. "Ain klaynikeit"--No big deal.

Sol Prince opens his members-only Price Club in San Diego, CA.

  L. L. Bean was transformed from its "alt" (old) K-Mart raunchiness to a kind of hip, contemporary Abercrombie & Fitch elegance.


Alice ("The Honeymooners") is going to buy Ralph a custom-tailored "kostyum" (suit) with money she earned working behind his back. When Ralph comes across the list of answering-service calls that Alice has "farborgn" (hidden), he jumps to "der sof" (the conclusion) that she's seeing another man.

Bruce Feirstein wrote that "Real Men are secure enough to wear their labels "ineveynik" (inside) their clothing."

Imelda Marcos went on a "vild" (wild) shopping spree during visits to New York and Europe buying "milyons" (millions) in jewelry.

Lesley Dorman and Mark Zussman said that one of six consumer house- hold objects that girls believe are a solution to all problems is a black dress. "Shvarts iz sheyn." (Black is beautiful.)
1985 Psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, calls the hard-core shopping addict "the latest addiction."
  The writer purchases an Apple IIe [enhanced] computer. A short time later she experiences the Adam & Eve Virus--it takes a couple of bytes out of her Apple computer!

Bloomingdale's "lesof" (finally) accepts Visa and MasterCard.

  R. W. Jackson says that when an item of worth is advertised as "Mint minus," it means that its been 'discontinued, recalled, twenty percent overpriced.'"

Demetrai Modar and John Owens defines "man" as follows: Male homo sapien, distinct from the female by a curious inability to "aynkoyfn" (shop).

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd coin the word "Ompton," which means "one who has been completely outfitted at Burberry's but is still, nevertheless, clearly from Idaho."

Joan Rivers (Joan Molinsky) started designing and selling "tsirung" (jewelry) on the new Home-Shopping cable channel called QVC.
  Michael Feldman (Whad'Ya Know?) wrote, l in 3 women say buying a bathing suit ("bodkostyum") is traumatic. (Men don't have this problem since women buy their swimsuits.)
1992 A man phoned F.A.O. Schwarz ("der shpilkrom" (toy store) in Manhattan looking for a piggy bank. "We don't sell piggy banks, sir," came the reply. "Our children don't save ("shpron")-- they invest."
  Freudian Slippers come in "fir" sizes: Id, Ego, Superego, and Egomaniac. "Tsi ken ich es bashtelen?" (Can I order one?)
  Mary McBride ("Don't Call Mommy at Work Today Unless the Sitter Runs Away") wrote, "Don't buy anything that's supposed to look wrinkled. You'll only have to explain that to people."


Ivana {Trump] begins selling her own designer clothes on cable TV. And Art Buchwald ("Beating Around the Bush"), "This is a great country and we thrive on celebrities that are so well known that you don't even have to use their last names."

Moviegoers get to hear Betty and Wilma ("The Flintstones") say, "Charge it."


Marcia Clark does her career wardrobe shopping at Ann Taylor.

  Retailers talk about the "Bikini Index" - When people feel better about the economy, they show more of their "fleysh" (flesh).
1995 Mike Tyson drops $60,000 at the designer's Caesars Palace Boutique.
  Liz Taylor purchased $23,000 worth of merchandise at Banana Republic in Beverly Hills. The next day she ordered an additional $9,000 worth of stocking stuffers.
Harrison ford was seen rifling through a $69 "sale" bin at Barneys. (He walked away emptyhanded!)
  Maureen Dowd, the New York Times "shrayber" (writer/author), selected a Prades handbag, and went absolutely livid when the saleswoman refused to give her a "hanokhe" (discount). "Saks gives me a discount!" she said.

Tiffany & Co. advertises on TV for the first time in the company's history.


Just before the Academy Awards, Helen Hunt stopped in at Barneys in Beverly Hills looking for the right "stanik" (brassiere) to wear under her gown. The one she wanted cost $275, a price she found unacceptable. After making a big "tareram" (fuss/ commotion), she got her assistant to give it to her for "umzist" (free).

Maureen Reagan bought four outfits at Forgotten Woman, the plus-size place. Sent one, schlepped one.
  Fran Fine chooses her wedding dress for the May 13 hour-long Sheffield nuptials of "The Nanny," at Celeste in Beverly Hills.
  Leonardo Di Caprio bought a faux-fur "kop" (head) covering at SoHo hat shop, Casa de Rodriguez.
Liz Claiborne, Inc. added a "zero" size during the spring when it expanded its petite line from "zero-to-16." (The yiddish word for zero is "nul."
1999 A new "lipnshtift" (lipstick), Lip Lip Hooray!, incorporates a breath freshner.
  Monica Lewinsky launched the Real Monica Inc., a line of cloth totes and purses, through her Web site,
2000 Regis Philbin's shirts and ties become increasingly popular.
  While Jerry Seinfeld anxiously awaited the arrival of his first child, he was permitted by management to shop at F.A.O. Schwarz, Manhattan, after business hours.
  The New York Times printed the following correction: Oct. 22, 2000: An article about Ivana Trump and her spending habits misstated the number of bras she buys. It is two dozen black, two dozen beige and two dozen white, not two thousand of each."
2001 Bill Clinton stopped into a bikini shop in Rio de Janero to purchase two bikinis and three sarongs.
2002 Bloomingdale's in Manhattan opened its new James Bond shops; they feature that oh-so-suave Bond lifestyle.

"Dos rikhter" (The judge) Judy Sheindlin, trying to keep her shape under that "lang" (long) black robe, bought a treadmill at the Gym Source.
2004 There are more than 700,000 vending "mashins" (machines) in the U. S. that dispense toy jewelry.
  According to Word/, a "metrosexual" is a straight guy who is a 'clothes horse wrapped around a dandy fused with a narcissist.'

Oscar de la Renta designed Laura Bush's Inauguration Day dress.

  There are more than 1.5 million "misterye" (mystery) shoppers in the U. S. and more than 250,000 in other nations. Retailers, hotels, and restaurants are among the companies that hire people to pose as customers and evaluate customer service.
  According to The New Laws of Fashion (Esquire Magazine, March), It's better to be overdressed ("oysgeputst") than underdressed. Being thought eccentric for wearing a tux to a swim meet is preferable to wearing a T-shirt and jeans to a wedding."
  Bank Leumi offers a Yomtov-friendly credit card ("kredit-kartl") in Israel. Presently, most ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel do not own a credit card. All it would take is an added microchip to turn a regular credit card into a shomer-Shabbat one. For Jews who strictly observe the Sabbath, commerce transactions are forbidden between Friday night and Saturday night with this card.
  "Di zeyde-bobe" (grandparents) spend $3.3 "bilyon" (billion) a year on toys for their grandchildren. On the"Fraytik" (Friday) after Thanksgiving, Fortunoff (Long Island, NY) offered customers a FREE "frishtik" (breakfast) and an in-store "masazh" (massage).
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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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