Why Are Mennonites Called Nappers (Why Are Mennonites Called Schmelly + Where Did The Name Come From)?

As a theologian with numerous years of study, I have enjoyed learning about many churches and denominations. Mennonites have always piqued my interest since I had the chance to live and interact with them in Pennsylvania a few years back. Now that I teach theology classes, I enjoy educating my students on the Mennonite Church because I have fantastic firsthand knowledge and experience. Recently, we covered some of the Mennonite misconceptions propagated by non-Mennonites and even the media. To get the class started, I asked them one question, which I knew the perfect answer to: why are Mennonites called nappers?

Mennonites are called ‘nappers’ because there is a common stereotype that Mennonites take a lot of naps. Due to the tiring labor Mennonites do, there is a perception that they doze off at any chance they get, including in the church.

In this article, we will dive into some of the nicknames and stereotypes attached to Mennonites. We will cover the words ‘napper’ and ‘schmelly’, as well as where they came from. Additionally, you shall find out how Mennonites feel about these terms and whether or not they are appropriate to use.

Where Did the Name Nappers Come From?

The name ‘nappers’ comes from the Mennonite stereotype that they love to nap during Sunday church services. The Mennonite community has a lot of misconceptions, perceptions, and stereotypes about them. One of them is that they frequently take naps because they are always exhausted from their hard manual labor. Since Mennonites value traditional rural life, they are known for engaging in strenuous work during the week, which makes them so tired by Sunday that they can’t help but fall asleep in church.

Why Are Mennonites Called Schmelly?

Why Are Mennonites Called Schmelly? 
Why Are Mennonites Called Schmelly? Image source: Pinterest

Mennonites are called ‘schmelly’ or ‘schmellies’ to mean they are smelly since it is a common misconception that Mennonites do not have good hygiene. Mennonites and Amish people are perceived to have poor personal hygiene due to their reluctance to bathe because many Mennonite people do not have running, hot water in their homes. Additionally, the Mennonites do a lot of outdoor manual labor in their farms, which ignorance can lead people to think results in sweaty body odor. Lastly, there is also the belief that Mennonites use cow dung as an organic fertilizer as opposed to commercial fertilizer, which is seen as smellier and more unsanitary.

Where Did the Name Schmelly Come From?

The name ‘Schmelly’ came from a TV sitcom show known as Letterkenny. The creators and writers of the show made up the derogatory name about the perceived uncleanliness of Mennonite people. When creating the slur, they actually mixed up Mennonites with Amish people because many of the “unhygienic practices” used to back it up are tied to the Amish and not the Mennonites. Since Letterkenny is a comedic show, the term ‘schmelly’ is meant to be funny and lighthearted, but the Mennonite Church does not think so. When the sitcom initially came up with the name, it received a lot of push-back from the community, which found the term inappropriate and misrepresented their culture.

Where Are Mennonites Called Nappers?

Generally, Mennonites are called ‘nappers’ in areas where they intermix with non-Mennonites. C.D. Zook, an Amish and Mennonite expert, propounds that where Mennonites and non-Mennonites coexist, there is a greater chance of them being called nappers. He uses the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as an example. In this region, both Mennonite and non-Mennonite denominations have large populations, and it is pretty common for Mennonites to be nicknamed ‘nappers’ as a joke.

Do Mennonites Nap More Than Non-Mennonites?

Why Are Mennonites Called Nappers?
Do Mennonites Nap More Than Non-Mennonites? Image source: Pinterest

Yes, it is widely believed Mennonites nap more than non-Mennonites. The Mennonites are very similar to Amish people because studies show that these Anabaptist Protestants’ sleep durations and patterns are longer than those of other religious groups. A questionnaire administered by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that modern lifestyle choices (which the Mennonites generally do not subscribe to) impact sleep habits and napping schedules. For instance, bright electric lighting and entertainment devices hamper proper sleep, making naps not as common with non-Mennonites.

Is Calling Mennonites Nappers or Schmellies An Insult?

Yes. Many Mennonites consider the terms ‘nappers’ and ‘schmellies’ insults. Even though the names are made up, they are largely considered slurs since a slur is a derogatory term used to offend a specific religious, ethnic, or racial group. Since Mennonites have a history of persecution for their culture and traditions, it is offensive and inappropriate to call them ‘nappers’ and ‘schmellies.’ Mennonite community members think that calling them such names misrepresents Mennonites and may even encourage their ostracization from the public.

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