"Shape up or ship out"

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Aug 10 18:40:04 UTC 2009

Thanks for the information, Jonathan!

I just leafed briskly through a dozen or two issues of _Collier's_ from 1952 and early 1953, my eyes especially peeled for a picture of a "top kick" that might be indicative (and trying not to linger over the many cartoons).  But I found nothing relevant.

There was, in the issue for 7 Feb. 1953, p. 33, an ad for Canada Dry sparkling water that featured the product's "BLEND-ABILITY"--which reminded me of the current TV commercials about the "drinkability" of Bud Light. Equally silly.

And there were an astonishing number of ads for cigarettes; how times do change!


---- Original message ----
>Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 11:54:25 -0400
>From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>

>Earlier still:
>1951 _Binghamton (N.Y.) Press_  (Nov 24) 6: President Truman from time to time adds another name to the long list of those in his administration scorched by scandal. He possibly has told others to shape up or ship out.
>1953 _Syracuse Post Standard_ (April 7) 6 (ad): Top kicks are neither swearing off - nor off swearing. Read "SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT!" ...in Collier's, on sale now.
>I don't have access to Collier's, but it was such a popular mag that the article probably had a lot to do with the spread of the phrase.
>On Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 10:28 AM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:

>> For the expression "Shape up or ship out," the OED cites Arthur Norman's "Army Speech and the Future of American English," _AS_ 31 (1956) 108, where the saying is said to exemplify "more or less ephemeral idioms."  Bad guess!
>> Slightly antedating Norman's aritcle is this:  Hanson W. Baldwin, "The Pentagon's Changes," _New York Times_ 14 May 1953 / 17:  "In Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe--better known as SHAPE--there had been a witticism, 'SHAPE up or ship out.'  This meant that officers must conform to the philosophy and doctrine of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters or transfer elsewhere."
>> I surmise that the "witticism" plays upon a saying that was already current--not that the saying itself is based on the acronym "SHAPE."
>>  Opinions?
>> --Charlie

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