to "spit-shine"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 4 04:29:26 UTC 2007

I'm familiar with stove polish from my East-Texas childhood. In that
time and in that place, central heating was unknown. My family used
gas stoves that were lighted and turned off as we moved from one room
to another. Stove polish could certainly be used to polish a pair of
shoes or a pair of boots, but, IMO, the result wouldn't bear any
resemblance to a spit shine. It wouldn't have the mirror-like,
patent-lleather reflective quality that defines a spit shine. Of
course, Mr. Ellis's opinion of what constitutes a spit shine may
differ from mine.

IAC, I'm willing to give Mr. Ellis the benefit of the doubt, since I'm
almost certain that the spit-shining of boots and shoes in the
military predates WWI, though I have no evidence to support that


On 3/3/07, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: to "spit-shine"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> More or less the same concept has been around for quite a while in "spit
> and polish".
> Here is an early "spit shine" example ... I think ... from N'archive:
> ----------
> Earl Ennis, "The Puckett's Barn Gang", Ch. XXXI, in _Olean [NY] Evening
> Herald_, 26 Dec. 1922, p. 9:
> [some boys are dressed up]
> <<Fat Hanson had on a nice new neck tie, .... Snub had to wear his Sunday
> bicycle pants with the knee buttons, and Pooch Lawrence had a spit shine
> done with stove polish. Everybody was washed within an inch of his life.>>
> ----------
> -- Doug Wilson
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