Jargon Genesis: You’re Fired!

If thieves in our current criminal system think they've got it bad, they should do some research on the miners from Mendip, England several hundred years ago. In a publication entitled “6 Laws of Mendip Miners,” the punishment for theft is clearly laid out:

If any man... do pick or steale any lead or ore…the Lord or his Officer may arrest all his lead and Oare House or hearthes with his Grooves and Workes and keep them in forfeit... and shall take the person that hath soe affeended and bring him where his house or worke and all his tooles and instruments are... and put him into his house or worke and set fire in all together about him and banish him...

In other words, if he steals, he’s fired! Literally.

The truth is there’s no conclusive evidence this is the origin of the phrase, “you’re fired,” but it is possible.

Others theorize that the phrase had its beginnings in an analogy with a gun. In the 1870’s, losing one’s job was called “fired out,” which could lead one to think of the mechanisms of shooting a gun in relation to the metaphorical aspects when losing employment. But again, this is pure speculation.

Although we are not able to derive a satisfactory genesis of this business jargon, we can nonetheless enjoy the many other terms that have come along to describe this most unappealing experience. Enjoy this timeline, and feel free to use them next time you intend to “give someone the skids.”

1825 – give (one) one's walking papers
1835 – walking ticket
1840 – someone is said 'to get the sack,'
1879 – get the bounce
1888 – get the boot
1889 – lay off
1915 – be shopped, figuratively be thrown out of the shop
1927 – get the blue envelope
1930 – get the pink slip
1936 – get the skids
1950 – in the case of an executive, get the kiss off

So if The Apprentice starts to lose (more) ratings, perhaps Mr. Trump can save the show by shouting, “You’re shopped!”

Hm…that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.