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January 25, 2011


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bible player

Good explanation about the "shew" i liked it so nice wanting more and more words to see in your blog nice blog thanku...:)

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jim pike

I have an instructiion book for a car dated 1929 and under a caption it says the word "shewing" for showing!

Virtual Linguist

Thanks Jim. So it certainly wasn't obsolete in the 20th century then. Thanks for reading and for commenting.


I was reading a set of RAF instructions for spotting aircraft when night flying - written during WWII. They were using shew at that time. Also High Court judgements were using shew until after the war. But from the two contexts I get the impression may almost have been an affectation by then. The kind of thing you would use to show how learned and traditional you were.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Al. Yes, I think you're right about the showing off. Thanks for dropping by and for reading and commenting.


Just reading through an old file of a recently retired director. He frequently used "shew" instead of show. He is in his 70s.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks Rumblytum. I don't think 'shew' was much in use after the 1940s, so your director must have acquired this spelling when very young and stuck to it. Thanks for reading and for your pertinent comment.

Michael Camilleri

Thanks for this explanation. I just came across an instance of it being used in a 1974 House of Lords judgment by Lord Reid and thought it might have been a typo.

Although 1974 is relatively recent (at least compared to when 'shew' fell out of favour), it's worth noting that James Reid was born in 1890 and so is likely to have learnt it in the late 19th century/early 20th century when it was still in common use.

The judgment can be seen here http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/1973/6.html.
and there's a little more on Lord Reid at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Reid,_Baron_Reid

Virtual Linguist

Thanks very much for your comment and for the extra information, Michael.

Derek McGovern

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) always used "shew" instead of "show" in his published plays, which he wrote from the early 1890s to the late 1940s.


I still use it today without realising, but the wife complains all the time.

Susanne Lamb

When I was a child in the fifties, all the platforms at Waterloo Station had a sign "Please shew your ticket" at the barrier.

Susanne Lamb

When I was a child in the fifties, all the platforms at Waterloo Station had a sign "Please shew your ticket" at the barrier.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Susanne. How interesting that you remember.

Jack Cannon

In the opening sequence of the 1952 movie The Long Memory, John Mills walks under a sign at Waterloo Station that clearly states: "All season tickets to be shewn". Great movie, by the way.

Davide Calliera

I have the clear memory when I was studying english as a foreign language in elementary school in Italy that the teacher gave us the paradigm of "to show" and the past form was "shew". Either she was old-fashioned or the textbook was out-of-date. Nevetheless even today when I speak English the first form that comes to my mind is shew and not showed, and I feel uncomfortable using the regular form.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks Jack and Davide. What great memories you have!

Charles Melville Wright

My late father-in-law - a solicitor who retired from private practice in the late 80s - always used 'shew'. He was born in the 1930s.
You refer to the pronunciation as 'shoe' - do you mean 'shoo'? It most definitely was pronounced in the same way as 'show' is now. The -ew sound was very often pronounced -oh. Shrewsbury is a case in point, though local dialects (some pronunciation generally introduced since people started to learn to spell) often shew otherwise! In East Anglia, the accent makes 'show' sound like 'shoo'. Confusing ..._

Virtual Linguist

Thank you for your good memory, Charles. I've just checked again in the OED, and the pronunciation 'shoo' is described as Scottish and dialect - which I didn't make clear in my original piece. Thanks for reading and commenting.


GEM Anscombe's book Intention, a major work of 20th century philosophy, used "shew", and it was written in 1957

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Jason.


I was at school in the UK from 1954 until 1967 and I was taught to use 'shew', with 'show' being considered by my teachers to be the less usual alternative.

Chris Jones

Here's a London train platform in 1962:


Virtual Linguist

Fascinating, Chris. Thanks.

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