This week’s Weird Word Wednesday is gumshoe. This word came about in my life this week because of a new role I have taken on—that of a gumshoe. It was an unexpected shift, at best, but I am making the most of it. Is there a weird word that you have become entangled with recently? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.
This week, I have unexpectedly become a gumshoe. This is an endeavor that came about quite by accident, but if I had been watching the signs, I would have seen it coming. I would have recognized that the advent of new technology would mean we would have to be on the lookout for lurking AI generated text in student papers. And with a tech savvy population, we should have known it would be sooner rather than later.
Gumshoe is a weird word for a sleuth. It reminds me of a sticky piece of chewing gum stuck to the sole of your shoe such that you can feel the slight stick with each step. So I investigated the etymology of the word because I was curious. From the Online Etymology Dictionary I read that gumshoe is a plainclothes detective, and the word originated in 1906, “from the rubber-soled shoes they wore (allowing stealthy movement).” These shoes were called gums or “rubber shoes” from 1863 or 1859, I couldn’t quite figure out which.
And now, the word makes a bit more sense. I can see these people sneaking around on their nearly silent shoes, looking for clues and evidence and missing persons.
As for my own sleuthing (is gumshoeing a word?)…. Never in my wildest imaginings did I see myself sleuthing out computer generated text in student writing. But sooner or later, it was bound to happen. I’m sure George Jetson predicted this (just like moving walkways and Zoom meetings) buried somewhere in those many episodes of sci-if cartoons. I guess I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.