Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grammar Nazi Assured This is A Shoe-in

Can a barefooted runner be a shoo-in? The way some people mangle this amalgamated word, it’s doubtful.

Shoo-in. I’ll type it again. Shoo-in. Now your turn. Got it?

It’s not shoe-in. Definitely not shoe-in. Use shoe-in at peril of being considered a moron.

Shoo-in, folks. Shoo-in.

From whence does the word come? Michael Quinton over at World Wide Words, has an answer. Apparently he believes a shoo-in – which we all know is a sure winner – gets its origin in horse racing where, as he says it, “a shoo-in was the winner of a rigged race.” The word comes from the onomatopoeic word “shoo,” which we use when we want to shoo animals away, or in this case, to the finish line.

Quinton goes on to say:
The shift to the horse racing sense seems to have occurred sometime in the early 1900s. C E Smith made it clear how it came about in his Racing Maxims and Methods of Pittsburgh Phil in 1908: “There were many times presumably that ‘Tod’ would win through such manipulations, being ‘shooed in’, as it were”.
That feels a little too pat to me, a little too much like folk entomology. But it’ll have to do. Quinton, unfortunately, seems to be the only one on the web willing to offer an explanation on this word’s origins.

But why worry about such an eggcorn? Ben Zimmer over at the Oxford University Press seem to think that it’s not worth bothering about, since, as they say, “our generation’s ‘common error,’ however, can be the next generation’s accepted variant.”

I counter by saying this: Get off Sarah Palin’s refudiated statements, then.

In other words, we’re not Shakespeare. We ought to be spelling these words correctly lest future generations regard their progenitors as morons.

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