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23 November 2009

Monday's Word - SLIPSHOD

One word no writer should ever hear from readers (or editors) is 'slipshod'. I have to admit my current WIP in progress is distinctly shipshod at the moment, but having written over thirty thousand words in the space of three weeks, is, I hope, some excuse. It will certainly be revised and polished to within an inch of its life before I even think of submitting it!

But where did the term 'slipshod' originate. Well, according to Michael Quinion*:

"In the beginning, around the middle of the sixteenth century,It was simply a shoe that one could easily slip on or off, one that English speakers even then also called a slipper.

A little later in the same century, a person who wore a slip-shoe began to be described - naturally enough - as "slip-shod". Within a few decades, however, it began to take on the negative associations that have remained with it down the generations. A person who was described as slip-shod was wearing shoes that weren't suitable for polite company because they were literally down at heel, shabby, over-loose or untidy.

Our modern meaning of some activity that was lacking in care, badly organised or slovenly came about in the nineteenth century. Writers were the first to suffer its disopprobrium, with critics describing what they felt was "slipshod English", and the wider sense grew out
of this.

We have completely forgotten the connection between "slip-shod" and those comfortable sixteenth-century slip-on shoes, whose shabbiness and unfashionableness has bequeathed the language a useful term."

OK, I'm going to put on my slippers, sit in front of my pc with a mug of tea, and try to catch up on my word count!


*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org