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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:09 pm

• shilly-shally •

Pronunciation: shi-li-shæ-li • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive (no predicates)

Meaning: To dilly-dally, to dawdle, to tarry; to be indecisive, to hesitate lengthily.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a rhyming compound, a musical feature of language. These words are usually lexical orphans, but this word is accompanied by a noun, shilly-shallier, which was quite popular in the middle of the 19th century. However, it didn't last long enough to establish a correct spelling; so, shillishallier and shillyshallyer also appeared in print.

In Play: I'll bet you've heard this a hundred times: "Don't shilly-shally; I'm in a hurry!" Of course, shilly-shallying can cause mischief: "My lotto number was the winner this week, but because of my shilly-shallying, I didn't get to the store in time to buy a ticket."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a hand-me-down from a phrase that was popular in the 17th century, "to stand shall I, shall I?" As with all hand-me-downs this one is the worse for wear. An example from 1689 reads, "Who follows him that standeth, shall I, shall I?" This phrase soon changed to shill I, shall I, which didn't make sense to many speakers, since none of the meanings of shill fit the phrase. The next step was a natural one: we changed the word to a rhyming compound, like dilly-dally and willy-nilly, which is what it is today. (We are happy that Paula Whitaker did not shilly-shally, but promptly brought today's excellent Good Word to our attention.)
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Postby MTC » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:06 am

Shilly-shally, dilly-dally,
a fine line between.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:00 pm

I won't dilly-dally: MTC what is the fine line between shilly-shally and dilly-dally. An answer will be dilly-dilly.

A favorite childhood song:
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Postby MTC » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:47 pm

The "fine line" refers to the comma between shilly-shally and dilly-dally and the dashes between shilly and shally and dilly and dally--to form, not substance. It's meant to be a teeny-weeny joke, a mere splinter of wit. Too obscure, I guess...
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:43 pm

Subtle or subtile?
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Postby misterdoe » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:04 pm

MTC wrote:...a mere splinter of wit.

I like that phrase. :)
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:59 pm

Anybody remember the old "Howdy Doody Show"?
One of the characters was Dilly-dally.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Postby wurdpurrson » Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:37 am

Had a cousin years ago who named his mare Shilly-Sally, because her two traveling speeds were slow and slower. Nice horse, though. She just wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere, not even back to the barn
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