Why do we say someone is a “goody two shoes” when they are annoyingly and smugly well-behaved? What is the origin of the phrase goody two shoes?
The phrase “goody two shoes” originates from a children’s story from the 1700s.
In 1765 a book entitled “Little Goody Two-Shoes” was published.
The story was about a poverty-stricken orphan girl called Margery Meanwell who was so poor, she only had one shoe. One day a rich kindly gentleman gave her a pair of shoes and she was so ecstatic, she ran around the town crying out news of her two shoes, and sharing her happiness with everyone she came across.
This is the origin of the “two shoes” bit of the phrase, but where does the “goody” bit come from?
At the time the story was written, lower class married women were often called “goody” if they were housewives, as an abbreviation of “goodwife” (and the male equivalent was “goodman”). So the translated title of the story is really more something like “The little housewife and her two shoes”.
If the story is literally about a woman and her shoes, how did the phrase come to mean someone who is extremely good and often smug about it?
It is likely that the phrase “goody two shoes” took on a new meaning many years after the story arose. It helped that Margery in the story was a good-hearted, hard-working and diligent woman who was repaid for her goodness, and indeed the moral of the “Little Goody Two-Shoes” story was that with a good heart and hard work, good things happen to you. But it is likely that the main reason this phrase came to get it’s meaning through the rise of the 1870s term “goody goody” which became confused with goody/housewife in the goody two-shoes story. Thus the popular story title which had a good ring to it and was well-known at the time, evolved to become the phrase “goody two shoes” we know today.
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