Grammar Hammer: Shinny vs. Shimmy


Months ago, I received a Grammar Hammer suggestion to look at the difference between the words “shinny” and “shimmy.”

The person who suggested this topic to me said she’d never heard the word “shinny.” I’ll confess, I hadn’t heard of it either.

I wondered if shinny was an eggcorn (a word or phrase that results from mishearing or misunderstanding another word that sounds very similar, e.g. “tow the line” vs. “toe the line”) derived from the word “shimmy.”

I was wrong. Both “shinny” and “shimmy” are words used to indicate movement, but there are distinct differences in the type of action being taken.


“Shinny” refers to climbing awkwardly, as if by scrambling.
Example: “The squirrel shinnied up the tree to get away from the cat.”

“Shimmy” means “to shake or tremble.”
Example: “That weird sound your car is making causes the front end to shimmy as you wait at the stoplight.”

So, if you need to scramble up a tree to get a cat, go ahead and shinny up there. If you are going to shake your money maker at a wedding, shimmy across the floor.

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Author Catherine Spicer is a former manager of customer content services at PR Newswire. 

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