Origin of the "Pink Slip"

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Tue Mar 27 16:50:58 UTC 2001

This is not a contribution to solving the question of the origin of "pink
slip" = notice of termination.  With apologies for merely raising a new
question: Did anybody else go to a high school where a pink slip denoted an
unexcused absence?

At my high school (West Linn, OR, in the 1950s), when you returned from an
absence, you proceeded first to the principal's office.  If you presented a
valid written excuse for your absence, you  received a white slip--a small
form which had to be signed by each of your teachers and returned to the
office.  If you had no excuse, you received a pink slip (the same form, but
on pink paper), with the same requirement.  If you forgot to bring an
excuse but said you'd bring it tomorrow, you received a pink slip with
"conditional" written at the top, which had to be signed and returned as
usual; then when you brought your excuse the next day you received a white
slip to clear your record.

I don't know whether this was a more or less universal practice or just
something my school district had dreamed up, but I never heard "pink slip"
used to denote a firing or layoff notice until I was grown.  Maybe the
literal pink slip was adopted by the school district for the specific
purpose of conveying a negative connotation borrowed from a well-known
metaphor--though I'm at a loss to see any other connection, since a pink
slip didn't mean you were "fired" from school.  It did carry a social
stigma--if you had a pink slip, all of your classmates saw you take it up
to the teacher for signature, and this was repeated in each period.

Peter Mc

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at linfield.edu

More information about the Ads-l mailing list