Posted by: Jack Henry | October 20, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Goody-Two-Shoes

Dear Editrix,

I wonder if you could tell me where the phrase goody two-shoes comes from. It makes so little sense! Do neutral people wear one shoe? Do bad people wear no shoes?


Benjamin on Battlefield Rd.

Dearest Benjamin,

My first thought was of Adam Ant and his song “Goody Two-Shoes,” but you’re probably too young to remember that.

I did a little digging to find the answer to your question, because your email made me laugh, and I agree—what do two shoes have to do with someone being virtuous? As Merriam-Webster spells and defines it, a Goody-Two-Shoes is “an annoyingly, sentimentally, or affectedly good person; a person who is uncommonly good.”

The history of this term is older than you might expect. It is from a children’s story published in London (1765), titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes. John Newbery was the author of this story, which is a variation of Cinderella.

According to Wikipedia:

The fable tells of Goody Two-Shoes, the nickname of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell, who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentleman gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone she has "two shoes." Later, Margery becomes a teacher and marries a rich widower. This earning of wealth serves as proof that her virtuousness has been rewarded, a popular theme in children’s literature of the era.

So there you have it! Good people are rewarded with two shoes, a teaching job, and a good marriage. The rest of us just have to fake it.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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