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You may or may not be familiar with the term “gumshoe”,  but most have heard the term as a nick-name used for many private investigators.

After a little investigating of my own,  information was come across as to where the term originated.

The first post proposed that the term “gumshoe” was a tribute to the sticking power of a PI — “you can’t get them off. They stick.” Cute explanation, but couldn’t be sure of its veracity. Read on.

The next theory suggests that the name originated from the gum-rubber soles on the shoes worn by detectives and PIs way back when. The rubber soles allowed the investigator to move quietly and avoid detection. Sounded plausible, but still the investigation persisted.

The final theory offered on the page suggested that the term originated because private investigators did so much walking in bad neighborhoods to interview people and gather information that they inevitably ended up with gum on their shoes. Hmmm, sounded a little suspect.

Turning to the search results, I tried to pick up the trail before it got cold. Our next stop was a web page called Cool Words, dedicated to the etymology of interesting words. The entry on “gumshoe” backed the rubber-soled shoe theory.

The evidence was piling up, but there was still need to consult a trusted informant before concluding the investigation. Turning to encyclopedia.com, a reliable source,  or at least appropriately enough, the site seemed to corroborate the rubber-sole theory.

It turns out that the original “gumshoes” of the late 1800’s were shoes or boots made of gum rubber, the soft-soled precursors of our modern sneakers… At the turn of the century “to gumshoe” meant to sneak around quietly as if wearing gumshoes, either in order to rob or, conversely, to catch thieves. “Gumshoe man” was originally slang for a thief, but by about 1908 “gumshoe” usually meant a police detective, as it has ever since.

Most everyone remembers this cynical, cigar weilding gumshoe.

For those of you who are too young to recall the dectective stories/ t.v. series, maybe you might have caught the  comic turned movie, Dick Tracy with Madonna playing the part of the seductive and pouty “bad girl”.

madonnadicktracy.jpg Dick Tracy image by kcsupercooper

Other than movies or telelvision, literature has been home to many mysterious and exciting adventures involving quick witted and detail focused detectives.

The famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote on the beloved Sherlock Holmes.

Agatha Chritie wrote of Hercule Poirot.

But today, the honor goes to Raymond Chandler, in honor of remembering his birthday. He was author of such great pulp-fiction works as “The Simple Art of Murder” or “The Big Sleep”, truly admired classics.

Chandler was a novelist and screenwriter who had an immense influence upon the modern private detective story, especially in the writing style that is now characteristic of that genre. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered synonymous with private detectives.

Stories of mystery and murder can really work the imagination and critical thinking process, trying to deduce the motives and oust the real criminal.

So, if you are wanting to delve into the world of “Who-Dunnit?”, visit your local library and see if you can catch the clues before you read to the end.

 “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” 

~ Raymond Chandler

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