From Shinola

I now know Shinola, but for a long time I did not. For most of my life I thought it was a made-up word.shinola

I’d only heard it used in a phrase to imply insult, as in “you don’t know s–t from shinola,” in which shinola is compared with a four letter word meaning excrement. The phrase could be used in any context to insinuate an individual did not know what he or she was talking about.

Until I was 56+ I knew from lower-case shinola, but I did not know of Shinola with a capital S.

After my husband’s parents died, he acquired some of their stuff, including some personal items that had belonged to his father. In a random box of odds and ends, we found not one, but two small cans of Shinola.

Turns out Shinola was an American brand of shoe polish, popular in the first half of the 20th century. Shinola went out of production in 1960, Wikipedia says.

Now that I know of Shinola, “s–t from Shinola” has a whole new meaning.

Laura Sternweis

P.S. There’s a new Shinola company in Detroit that makes not only shoe polish, but also luxury goods. Which takes the old expression in yet another direction.


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