“Shilly-shally”

When a person is unable to make up his mind about something, then he is said to be shilly-shallying. It is a word that is mostly used in informal contexts, and when used, indicates disapproval.

*I think it is about time that you stopped shilly-shallying. *Rekha shilly-shallied for two months. It drove Amitabh up the wall.

Any idea where this word comes from? What is the question that we normally ask ourselves when we are undecided about something? It is, “Shall I? Shall I?” It is from this that the word “shilly shally” comes from. With the passage of time “shall I, shall I” changed to “shill I, shall I?” Later, the “I” became part of “shill” and “shall”, and we finally ended up with “shilly-shally”.

The Hindu- ‘Know Your English’ Series, September 06, 2004

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