Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Hi everyone. What brought me here was something I saw in the newspaper today in the comic strip “Baby Blues”: http://www.arcamax.com/pic/36220/136802
What immediately caught my attention was “shinny up.” I had always grown up with “shimmy up.” I noticed in a forum keyword search on “shinny” that these two words have come up before, but the post seemed inconclusive, just saying that “shimmy” was a misuse of “shinny.” Nonetheless, “shimmy” seems to be more common, I think, and I wonder if this is an instance of an emerging eggcorn or still just a misuse. I did a Google search test:
“shimmy up”: 25,200 hits
“shinny up”: 1,090 hits
This almost satisfied my curiosity, so I then looked both up in Webster online:
shinny: to move oneself up or down something vertical (as a pole) especially by alternately hugging it with the arms or hands and the legs
shimmy: 1 : to shake, quiver, or tremble in or as if in dancing a shimmy
2 : to vibrate abnormally—used especially of automobiles
3 : SHINNY
Am I just going in circles here? Is this an emerging eggcorn yet?
I think it’s such an old eggcorn that it’s made it into the dictionary through sheer volume of use.
Not into my desk dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s College, 10th Edition), however. The only “shimmy” in my dictionary is the dancing one, and there is no cross-reference to “shinny.”
And “shinny” is in my dictionary as a variation of “shin,” which showed up in the 1820s to mean climbing a pole w/ hands/arms and legs.
The dance that lead to the use of the word “shimmy” to mean shaking from side to side showed up as a written word in 1919.
So “shin” or “shinny” up a pole is the original term.
I’m betting that “shimmy up a pole” started taking hold as the term “shimmy” became more common when dancing started getting looser. And nobody used “shin” or “shinny anymore for much of anything.
And I think you grew up in the eggcorn camp, instead of the purist camp.
Last edited by TootsNYC (2007-08-07 23:58:01)
The usage history of shinny vs. shimmy is shown in ; they were neck and neck for a short period of their history, though shimmy has more ups and downs and looks poised to replace shinny, as in up. I suspect they were largely independent until shimmy up appeared as a delightful eggcorn, as Toots suggested, . The etymology of the two words is ripe with ambiguity and criss-crossing origins. Where I grew up in western Canada, there was lots of shinnying up poles but no shimmying up. We also played shinny, which was hockey, with a ball, played in boots, on frozen patches of playground at recess. The Online ED says the name comes either from Gaelic sinteag, “a bound, a leap,” or from shin ye, “the cry used in the game.” I vote for the latter, recalling the game as a painful exercise in shins barked by hockey sticks, though a warning “I’ll shin ye!” would have been redundant.
Shimmy, on the other hand, apparently began as a suggestive dance in the years of the Great war: it got an additional boost in WWII according to the ngram. It might come as a faux-singular back-formation from Fr. chemise, as in shake your blouse, mademoiselle, or else from shimmer, or who knows, it might be a bit of both.
Last edited by David Bird (2014-01-12 00:59:23)
If you compare , you will see that “shimmy up” is already more common than “shinny up” in the U.K.
I was sitting here trying to remember which of the two expressions, “shinny up” or “shimmy up,” was part of my Midwestern NA dialect. Neither one felt quite right. Then I realized that my cohorts usually said “skinny up.” There are a couple of dozen hits, for example, for “skinny up a tree.” We skinnied over, skinnied up, skinnied around.
There are also a non-trivial number of hits for “skimmy up” with the same meaning. Fuzzy spot alert.
Last edited by kem (2014-01-12 07:00:03)
Skinny and skimmy are great, logical eggcorns. The one I looked for also makes sense, either because the kneck is used as a prehensile limb, or because of the upward direction and attitude one takes. In fact, chinny up is used more as a cute way of saying “keep your chin up” than as a climbing method.
To limb the tree had never been given a thought by the excited youngsters, until one of their number, more daring than the rest, with serious mien, threw off his coat and started to “chinny” up the tree, which proved a difficult job, owing to its round and smooth surgace affording not much of a foot – hold to the climber.
It is pretty obvious that when Toby is in wildcat mode – wide eyed frantic stare, body tensed, paws splayed, tail puffed out, sudden dashes around the house, grabbing toys and tossing them in the air, somersaults off the coffee table, chinnying up the balusters
Okay I’m high on a tree, searching for crow nests to get some eggs or maybe baby crows (they taste awesome fried and crispy). suddenly I spot Oldster chinning up the tree with a 100lbs roadkill hooked on his back.
Chinning up makes me think of inching up for some reason. And there is a hint of doing chinups.
Not sure I see an analogical image in “skimmy up.” “Chinny up” certainly makes sense. The chin and shins are primary contact points for barehanded, barefooterd tree climbers.