What is shinola?

In that old expression, “You don’t know s*** from shinola?” — what the heck are they talking about?

  1. If the expression fits…

    What is Shinola? This is.Ah, yes. Nowhere near as popular or common as it used to be, this expression still pops up here and there, especially among older folks. I’d love to have a really juicy research project to sink into, so I can tell you I spent hours working on this to get you your answer, which would give insight into the human condition — but truthfully, this one is pretty straightforward.

    Shinola was a brand of shoe polish, popular in the early to mid-20th century. The original trademark was filed by the “2-in-1 Shinola-Bixby Corporation” in 1929.

    So why in the world would anyone not know the difference between, er, scheiße (pardon my Deutsch) and a shoe polish? Well, that was the whole point, that someone would be so dumb as to be unable to discern feces from the stuff you rub into your wingtips — but some additional research reveals that Shinola had a color and texture that was not completely unlike feces.

    Isn’t this a lovely discussion? You’re never going to look at your loafers the same way again.

    So now the next time you tell someone this, feel confident in the knowledge that you actually know what you’re talking about — or if someone says it to you, put them on the spot and ask if they really know the difference.

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