Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hopefully, the AP gives in

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on the AP’s surrender on hopefully. Now if you think Lexicide is pretentious, please read the editorial, which leads with “The barbarians have done it.” We at Lexicide would never refer to anyone as a barbarian. (We prefer “knuckle-dragging troglodyte.”)

On hopefully, I feel less severe than the Post. After all, using it to mean “it is hoped that” (“Hopefully, writers will stop using words incorrectly.”) does not eliminate the traditional meaning of “full of hope” (“She waited hopefully for word of her husband’s fate.”). Both seem to coexist peacefully, clarified by context. Also, “it is hoped that” is awkward and passive, and there are times when the first person “I hope that” is not appropriate.

You see? We at Lexicide welcome useful language drift — some of the time, at least. We promise to always be open-minded about these things. Hopefully.

Shoo-in

shoo-in

SHOO-IN: “a person or thing that is certain to succeed, esp. someone who is certain to win a competition.” – New Oxford American Dictionary

This is not a real lexicide, and to be honest, the perpetrator here is yours truly. Recently, I used the improper shoe-in on, of all places, Facebook. A “friend” (yes, one of those) called me on it. Like a preacher caught in a brothel, somehow the offense seems dirtier coming from me.

So off I went in search of shoo-in’s origin. Like many other useful terms (“hands down” comes to mind), shoo-in comes from the world of horse racing, where the nippy nags are literally shooed in to the finish (to shoo meaning, of course, to drive an animal where you want it to go). Presumably all the jockeys are shooing in their mounts, so how did this term come to apply only to sure bets? Opinions vary, but William Safire wrote that in a fixed race it was the other jockeys who shooed in the decided winner while simultaneously holding their own steeds back. This origin story sounds murky to me, but as this site demonstrates, crisp logic is not a prerequisite for etymology.

So please forgive this foray into non-lexicidal, non-corporatese misspelling, but I do feel like I’ve done a kind of penance. All the better to shoo away future lexicides.

Otto E. Mezzo

References: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sho1.htm
http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/5/messages/1034.html