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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Shoo Fly

With election time on us, we are going to hear all about "Shoo-Ins".

It's spelled wrongly so often that it’s likely to end up that way.

The correct form is shoo-in, usually with a hyphen. It has been known in that spelling and with the meaning of a certain winner from the 1930s. It came from horse racing, where a shoo-in was the winner of a rigged race.

In turn that seems to have come from the verb shoo, meaning to drive a person or an animal in a given direction by making noises or gestures, which in turn comes from the noise people often make when they do it.

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 1908 Racing Maxims and Methods:

“There were many times presumably that ‘Tod’ would win through such manipulations, being ‘shooed in’, as it were”.


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