Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: shirk.

shirk. In the modern idiom, this word is almost exclusively a transitive verb, as in the cliché that someone has “shirked” his or her duties. But the misformed phrase *”shirk from” has recently emerged, probably out of confusion with “shrink from” — e.g.: o “[Children] must have teachers who never shirk [read ‘shrink’] from challenging them to do their best.” “Motivated Children Learn,” Baltimore Sun, 18 June 1997, at A10. o “Kennedy . . . did not shirk [read ‘shrink’] from the hard work of getting America ready for the modern age and infusing that effort with the idealism and commitment that bore fruit in Project Apollo and the Peace Corps.” David M. Shribman, “When Mud Is Splattered on the History Books,” Boston Globe, 30 Nov. 1997, at D3. o “The film doesn’t shirk [read ‘shrink’] from conveying the keen sense that in the face of so much agony, an act of compassion had as random an impact in saving a life as did the mortar shells in ending so many.” James L. Graff, “The Way It Was,” Time, 11 Dec. 1997, at 82. Language-Change Index — “shirk” misused for “shrink”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior forms. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “If a new word is recognized as meeting a need of the language, as providing an easier or a more effective way of saying something that we want to say, then its future is assured; the most perfervid protests against it will be unavailing.” Brander Matthews, Essays on English 103 (1922).
Scroll to Top