Gumshoe lobbying

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon May 24 02:12:16 UTC 2010

Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> ....
> I noticed this phrase in a NYTimes article about financial firms trying
> to influence current legislation:
> Financial Overhaul Bill Poses Big Test for Lobbyists
> Published: May 22, 2010
> “There’s no substitute for old-fashioned gumshoe lobbying,” Mr. Talbott
> said. “The staff here knows it. We offer to resole their shoes when they
> wear them out.”
> This feels wrong. Gumshoes are the rubber covers put on leather shoes to
> protect them from the rain and mud. I think the intended phrase was
> "shoe-leather lobbying", which gets about 6400 google hits.
> I found one historical usage, also in the NYTimes, back in 1921.
> "We must set our house in order again, find out the truth of this
> gumshoe lobbying (every legislator has a well-stocked wine cellar, I am
> told -- ain't human nature wonderful?) and I doubt not that innumerable
> anti-saloon folk draw plump checks every week to help pay for the high
> cost of living at dry hotels." In this case, "gumshoe" seems to refer to
> the protective nature of the (pro-Prohibition) lobbying, and have
> nothing to do with "knocking on doors".

Without looking further into the contexts, I suggest that the "gumshoe"
here probably does not mean "rubber overshoe", but rather is the
"gumshoe" [adjective] (shown in MW3, HDAS, etc.) meaning approximately
"stealthy"/"surreptitious", presumably based on "gumshoe" =
"rubber-soled shoe"/"sneaker". I suppose these lobbyists are stealthy
because they're offering illegal/unethical/shameful bribes?

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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