Many a child has been dubbed “Goody Two-Shoes” by her taunting peers. This label has been popular for centuries– children have long used it to tease people who they find excessively or annoyingly well-behaved.The origins of the term “Goody Two-Shoes” trace back to at least 1670, when it was used in much the same context as today.
Goody Two-Shoes in Poetry
In the 1670 poem, “A Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque,” Charles Cotton uses the name Goody Two-Shoes as an insulting nickname. In the poem, a mayor calls his wife Goody Two-Shoes.
Mistress mayoress complained that the pottage was cold;
‘And all long of your fiddle-faddle,’ quoth she.
‘Why, then, Goody Two-shoes, what if it be?
Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle,’ quoth he.
This is the earliest recorded origin of the name Goody Two-Shoes, although it is unlikely that Cotton himself coined the name.
Goody Two-Shoes in Literature
The name Goody Two-Shoes was popularized in 1765 by London author John Newbery. He wrote a children’s story entitled, “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes,” in which he tells of a virtuous child who is rewarded with wealth because of her good deeds.
In the story, Goody Two-Shoes’ origins are similar to those of many fairy-tale heroines. She is a kind-hearted orphan who is so poor that she owns only one shoe. When a wealthy man gives her a pair of shoes, she is so excited that she enthusiastically tells everyone that she is fortunate because she now has “two shoes!” This earns her the nickname of Goody Two-Shoes. In the end of the story, she become a schoolteacher and marries a rich man.
Origins of “Goody”
Goody Two-Shoes’ name does not reflect her virtue, although most people assume that “Goody” refers to her kindness. Rather, “Goody” is a title, short for “goodwife,” that was once used in the same context as “Mistress” or “Misses.” Although Goody Two-Shoes is unwed until the end of the story, Newberry states that her peers gave her the nickname when she was still a child. It is the equivalent of a modern child prefacing a taunting name with “Little Miss” or “Misses.”
Very few children realize that the nickname Goody Two-Shoes is so ancient, but it is actually about 350 years old. Unfortunately, the urge to taunt the annoyingly virtuous is as ancient as bullying itself.