• shoo •
Pronunciation: shoo • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Interjection, Verb
Meaning: 1. [Interjection] An exclamation used to chase something away. 2. [Verb] To chase away.
Notes: Today again we have a very ordinary Good Word, an interjection whose sense of "Get away!" strongly recommended it as a verb. Today it is a fully fledged verb with a full complement of forms: shoos, shooed, shooing, shooer. I wouldn't stretch it to shooee "that which is shooed" but I'm sure some would.
In Play: Today's Good Word is used more often as a verb meaning "to chase away", as in, "Izzy Dare did more harm than good trying to shoo flies away from the picnic with his baseball bat." Flies historically have been among our most annoying pests, so we once heard, "Shoo, fly!" quite often, as though we expected the fly to understand us. Today we have many means of shooing: "Ethyl Gass shooed everyone out of the living room without uttering a word.
Word History: The interjection Shoo! has been around forever. It is similar to German schu, Italian sciò, Polish sio, and Portuguese xô. The use of this word to chase folks and other things away is influenced by the fact that SH is the noisiest consonant in the language (oddly also used as a sound to induce silence: "Shhhh!"). The noun shoo-in "a sure winner" began at the racetrack referring to a horse that wins by such a margin it looks as if the other horses are shooing him away. It's anyone's guess where we got shoofly pie, the molasses, brown sugar, and raisin pie baked by the Pennsylvania Dutch. This heavy dessert certainly is no mispronunciation of soufflé as some suggest. It probably comes from a use of the phrase Shoo fly! in its Civil War sense of "Keep away!" applied to Pennsylvania Dutch children while the shoofly pies were cooling. (Let's not shoo Kathleen McCune of Norway away by forgetting to thank her for her continuing contributions to our series.)