Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.


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English: Line art drawing of shoe. Suomi: Piir...

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A ‘shoo-in’ is a person or thing certain to succeed. It’s not spelt ‘shoe-in’. Lots of people think it is. It isn’t. So in all the examples below, ‘shoe-in’ should be ‘shoo-in’:

…Angela Merkel was a shoe-in for a second term as chancellor in federal elections on 27 September. (Guardian)

Blair was seen as a shoe-in for the squad and was even being talked of as a possible captain. (Times Online.)

Paul Skinner, the former chairman of Rio Tinto who not so long ago was seen as shoe-in to succeed Peter Sutherland at BP… (Daily Mail) 

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6 Responses

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  1. From shooing away a pet, horse, or fly.

    By the by, we had a huge street protest today at the British consulate in West LA, by unionists who’ve been locked out of the Rio Tinto borate mine 100 miles north of LA. Who knew?

    Michael Farrell

    17/04/2010 at 6:16 am

    • Hi, Michael — funny you should mention a horse, because apparently the term was coined in the 1930s based on an earlier use of the term to refer to the winner of a rigged horse race.


      17/04/2010 at 7:55 am

      • See, I think that’s partly why everyone mistakenly says “shoe-in”: some association with horseshoes. In the southern US, there’s a sweet molasses pie called “shoo-fly” pie, named after the need to shoo flies away from it.

        It might be a casualism, but it’s not a neologism.

        Michael Farrell

        17/04/2010 at 3:52 pm

        • Being a bit thick, I never thought of the ‘horseshoe’ association. Thanks, Michael.


          17/04/2010 at 4:15 pm

  2. What an unpleasant little neologism. I hope it soon achieves the addition of ‘obs.’ in all dictionaries. I notice that all your examples were written by journalists. Nuff sed.


    17/04/2010 at 7:45 am

    • Welcome back, Dai — yes, journalists get it wrong all the time.


      17/04/2010 at 7:56 am

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