Goody Two Shoes

“Well, she’s a goody two shoes, who always follows the white line with her straitlaced actions, prissy dress and prudish manners.”

I get the picture. I get the picture. We are talking about a woman who has excessively high morals, who only does what is expected of her, who is very proper in her manners and opinions, who is excessively respectable, and who is easily shocked by things that others are not shocked with. She is a goody-two shoes.

Do those people exist? Yes, I think so, but not in my circle of friends and family. We (I think anyway) understand that everyone makes mistakes, and we try to rectify the mistake and go on. I also think that a goody two shoe is easy to judge the actions, dress, and wordage of another. After all, goody comes from good, right? and they think they are so good, right? Well, not exactly.

Good means excellent, beneficial, valuable and the word has been around forever — as far back as Old English and Old Norse. In other words, a long time. So, the word “good” has withstood the test of time — it still means the same — beneficial or advantageous. It also means morally right, but there are many people who are good but are not goody two shoes. They’re just plain good, nice people.

On the other hand, “goody” comes from being a goodwife ( and I do not mean a good wife, a wife who is good, I say a goodwife — notice the two words are combined when it can be shortened to goody). In England, Scotland and colonial America a woman, whether it be a Mrs. or a Miss and she was of a lower economical rank she was referred to as a goodwife. (A woman who had a higher social rank was called a Mistress — i.e., the Mistress of the house). Ah, so now words are defining where someone stands in society. That is not so today. I would have no way of knowing which Mrs. or Miss or Ms. stood in societal ranking. Today, we figure that out by the address they keep.


So, how did “goody” get to “goody two shoes”? It’s from a children’s book “The History of Little Goody Two Shoes” published anonymously by John Newberry in London in 1765. Basically, it is a Cinderella story — this little girl lost her parents and was so poor (goody) she only had one shoe. Someone bought her another shoe and she went around town announcing she had two shoes. The upshot of the story is she grew up, became a teacher, and married someone of wealth. Then, she helped the poor. That is her history.

(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)



That was not the first time the phrase “goody two shoes” was used.

Charles Cotton used the phrase in 1694 in a poem, and this time the phrase refers to a gossipy housewife:

“Why, what then, Goody two shoes, what if it be?/Hold you, if you can, your tittle- tattle, quoth he.”

(tittle-tattle means gossip)

So, fast forward a few hundred years, and goody two shoes has nothing to do with a rank in society or having two shoes, but it has everything to do with referring to a person who is smug about being good.

I may have been known to follow the white line at times, because I do know what is expected of me and I act accordingly, but that is as far as my goody two shoes goes.

Who do you know who is a goody two shoes, a prude (someone easily shocked by what others say or do when others are not shocked with the actions of the people in question), prissy (cares too much about dressing, language or behaving properly), straitlaced (very proper in manners, morals and opinions), or like me, at times, follow the white line?

We all have a bit of any of this in us, or else there are no rules to acting in society. It’s just how far do we go?

Until Friday…




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