Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Origin: Shyster

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Woman: “You're awfully shy for a lawyer.” 

Groucho: “You bet I'm shy...I'm a shyster lawyer!" 

- Monkey Business (1931) 
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Definition:

The definition of “shyster”, according to the Free Online Dictionary, is: 
a lawyer or politician, who uses discreditable or unethical methods 

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Word origin:

shyster -
 
An unscrupulous lawyer (note that the definition presumes the existence of scrupulous ones) . . . 

The term does not come from—as suggested in various dictionaries—the surname Scheuster, supposedly a lawyer noted for shyster-like practices; from the name of the Shakespearean character, Shylock; . . . or from any of the various meanings of shy (e.g., to be shy of money). Rather . . . shyster evolved from the underworld use of shiser, a worthless fellow, which derived in turn from the German scheisse, excrement, via scheisser, an incompetent person (specifically, one who cannot control his bodily functions) . . . 

Hugh Rawson (1991) 
A Dictionary of Invective
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