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ETpro's avatar

Shoo-in or Shoe-in, which one is correct?

Asked by ETpro (34498points) July 3rd, 2010

I’ve seen it written both ways. Surely it’s either one or the other. So which is the easy winner?

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20 Answers


For me, shiny shoe-in. For others, shoe-in. Lol.

zenele's avatar

This one is spelled wrongly so often that it’s likely it will eventually 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 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”.

gasman's avatar

Shoo-in is correct.
Shoe-in is an eggcorn—see here

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s a ditty we sang as kids:

Shoo, fly, don’t bother me,
Shoo, fly, don’t bother me,
Shoo, fly, don’t bother me,
For I belong to somebody.
I feel, I feel,
I feel like a morning star,
I feel, I feel,
I feel like a morning star.

The Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) make a shoo-fly pie that is rich and uses molasses. Not a favorite of mine, however.

@zenele: Source?

rebbel's avatar

What i always do in cases like these is Google them:
Shoo-in; 687.000 results
Shoe-in; 16.600.000 results

gasman's avatar

There’s no question that shoo-in is the original phrase & that it’s transformation to shoe-in occurred in recent years. Linguistic drift or whatever, just as butterfly was originally flutter-by.

anartist's avatar

OED weighs in with “shoo-in” and the etymology is interesting,
although someone at @gasman‘s eggcorn site said “I kinda like shoe-in, like once you get the tip of your shoe in the door it’s hard for them to close it.” which is kind of cute.

ETpro's avatar

@aprilsimnel Thanks for the dictionary link.

@zenele Thanks for a GA. Fascinating background info.

@gasman Thanks for the new word (to me) eggcorn. Very interesting. I love to learn new words.

@rebbel Just goes to show you how many people never bother to check which is correct. :-)

@anartist I accept OED as authoritative. Thanks.

Jeruba's avatar

I always understood “shoo-in” as a corruption of “sure-in,” something or someone who is for sure going to make it or succeed in some bid, such as to win a race or an election. I thought “shoo,” to drive something away, was a completely different expression.

But now, prompted by @zenele, who is usually pretty confident when he speaks of words, I consulted a printed copy of the OED (not trusting any abbreviated online version of it).* It seems that the “sure” explanation is a false etymology based on supposition and that horse-racing is indeed the source of this derivative of “shoo.”

*And especially not something that turns out to be “Online Etymology Dictionary,” with no clear and visible tie to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) or Oxford and copyrighted by an individual.

@rebbel, when you consider how many online instances take their authority from other online instances, you really can’t tell very much from such numbers.

ETpro's avatar

@Jeruba I trusted the online OED but am grateful you took the time and effort for due diligence. It’s official, shoo-in it is!

rebbel's avatar

Yes, i was thinking that one shouldn’t blindly trust Google’s outcome in these matters.
But in almost every answer and question i write here i do exactly the same, whenever a word gets red underlined in the ‘box’, or when i am not sure myself about one, i go to Google and check it.
This afternoon, for example, i wrote definetely and found in Google that it had to be definitely.

iphigeneia's avatar

In my opinion, it definitely should be shoo-in. While being a shoe-in, as in having a shoe in the door, makes sense, the idea is slightly different to being shooed (okay, now I’m stuck, is shooed correct?) in like we often shoo animals or children away.

anartist's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you for pointing that out!!! I fell for that site! Thank whatever I have my Babylon with a real link. My hardcopy one is so hard to read: the 4-pages-in-one with the magnifier.

Concise Oxford English Dictionary
■ noun informal, chiefly N. Amer. a person or thing that is certain to succeed or win.
© Oxford University Press, 2004

I love Babylon! Does anyone else use it?

gasman's avatar

@ETpro: I first learned about eggcorns at Language Log. If you like words, check it out!

ETpro's avatar

@gasman Done. Thanks.

Jeruba's avatar

@anartist, you’re welcome. I would have reacted to the misleading page header at any time, and probably would have checked my hard copy of the OED at any time (with magnifying glass), but as it happens my awareness was heightened by the fact that I am currently reading this fascinating account of “the greatest enterprise of its kind in history.”

Val123's avatar

I think of “Shoo! Shoo!” like, shooing someone through the door when I hear that word.

Jeruba's avatar

@Val123, that’s exactly the right association, apparently. The old meaning of urging something to move along was picked up in relation to horse-racing, referring to winners that were shooed in and therefore certain to win. It means an assured victory, unlike the notion of “shoe in,” foot in the door, which is a very tentative beginning with results that are anything but guaranteed.

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