"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Sunday 8 April 2012


Etymologist has left a new comment on your post "The Meaning Of A Word":

"I could be wrong"

You are ... and not for the first time. In this context, it's a slang expression - an early 20th-century Americanism derived from the word 'shellac' (a type of wood finish)


And you could be right.

 Except that. Shellac is a hard bright clear polished wood finish .derived from a particular species of beetle.It is also an ingredient in French Polish.

Now, I don't know why a defeat in an election might be compared to  a hard bright clear polished  wood finish.

But I can certainly see why a  defeat  at the polls could  be described as a thorough drubbing  at the hands of an adversary with an Irish knobbly blackthorn walking stick also used as a cudgel  and known in verse and song as a shillalegh.

With me  shillalegh under me arm
And a twinkle in me eye
I'll be off to Tipperary in the morning.

With me shillalegh under me arm
And a toora-loo-la-ri
I'll be welcome in the home that  I was born in.

And  A Happy Easter to you too , Mr. Smarty-pants entymologist.

What are the chances of an early 20th century "Americanism" being  original?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

May we throw ' gumption' into the pot? As in, 'The man was sorely lacking in gumption.' Beats the more crude modern versions.