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December 10, 2010 Word of the Day

December 10, 2010

Word of the Day

  • shilly-shally
  • SHIL-ee-SHAL-ee


: to show hesitation or lack of decisiveness or resolution
: dawdle

Don't shilly-shally like a fool. Just make up your mind and buy the car.

"When then-gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy met with Tim Bannon a few weeks before Election Day and offered him what could be considered the second most-powerful position in state government, Bannon jumped at the opportunity. 'I didn't have to shilly-shally much in responding to that,' Bannon said of his job as Gov.-elect Malloy's chief of staff." -- From an article by Brian Lockhart, published November 20, 2010 on (Connecticut Post)


Shall I? Shall I? When you just don't know what to do, it may feel as if asking that question twice will somehow help you decide. The early 1600s saw the use of the phrase "stand shall I, shall I" to describe vacillation or indecision. By 1700, the phrase had been altered to "shill I, shall I," most likely because people just liked the vowel alteration (that's the same process that gave us "dillydally" and "wishy-washy"). Soon after, the adverbial "shilly-shally" made the jump from slang to literature, and by the late 1700s it was being used not only as an adverb, but also as an adjective, a noun, and a verb.