Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What the hell is a shrift?

And why is it always short? Apparently, "shrift" is an old English term for a penance. Doing penances back in the medieval day was frequently a big deal - kind of like pledging a fraternity, just with more relevance and less beer. Being given a short shrift was a good thing.

However, it turns out that short shrifts were most frequently given to condemned prisoners. This was to allow the prisoner an opportunity to clear their sin docket before getting the infamous Haircut That's About Six Inches Too Low. Typically, if you were getting a short shrift, you were going to have a very bad day.

So somehow all of that got munged down into meaning that a short shrift was something that wasn't going to get a lot of attention. It stands to reason, then, that a long shrift would mean you're going to pay a lot of attention to something.

So why don't we ever talk about long shrifts? It's a mystery. I think I'll sit down and have a nice long shrift thinking about it.

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