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Where did the term "pink slip" come from?

Question...

My boss was not happy with my performance and went ahead and canned me. Apparently he didn't appreciate me rolling in late each day, but hey, sleep is important to me. The official notification he handed me was on a piece of ivory paper, and this got me wondering, where did the term "getting the pink slip" come from?

-- Sleepyhead in Solana Beach

You sound like a man with his priorities in order. So I wish I could be more specific with my answer. The phrase-origin brain trust is its usual evasive self on this one. The term is definitely American, dates from the Nineteen Tens, and comes from the practice of putting a pink "you're fired" slip in the offender's final pay packet. Who started it? Nobody knows. Why pink? Why was the practice widespread enough to spawn a popular expression? Ditto.

"Fired" is easier. Again American, 1890s, a short form of the already-popular term "fired out," as in ejected with force from someplace you're not wanted..."They fired me out of the bar last night." Gun metaphors are at the source, of course. "Canned" is a bigger mystery. Meaning "fired," it long predates "can" as a toilet or a jail or your butt. You could have been canned in America as far back as the 1880s. That's about ten years after people began buying food in mass-produced tin cans, so maybe that's the connection. They stick you in a can and ship you out of the company. My personal wild speculation is no worse than what etymology eggheads get paid the big bucks for. Just because you get it free in the Reader is no reason to sneer. Americans love slang and wordplay. And I guess Sleepy is going to have plenty of time for that now. And luckily the Reader will fit his new budget just fine.

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Question...

My boss was not happy with my performance and went ahead and canned me. Apparently he didn't appreciate me rolling in late each day, but hey, sleep is important to me. The official notification he handed me was on a piece of ivory paper, and this got me wondering, where did the term "getting the pink slip" come from?

-- Sleepyhead in Solana Beach

You sound like a man with his priorities in order. So I wish I could be more specific with my answer. The phrase-origin brain trust is its usual evasive self on this one. The term is definitely American, dates from the Nineteen Tens, and comes from the practice of putting a pink "you're fired" slip in the offender's final pay packet. Who started it? Nobody knows. Why pink? Why was the practice widespread enough to spawn a popular expression? Ditto.

"Fired" is easier. Again American, 1890s, a short form of the already-popular term "fired out," as in ejected with force from someplace you're not wanted..."They fired me out of the bar last night." Gun metaphors are at the source, of course. "Canned" is a bigger mystery. Meaning "fired," it long predates "can" as a toilet or a jail or your butt. You could have been canned in America as far back as the 1880s. That's about ten years after people began buying food in mass-produced tin cans, so maybe that's the connection. They stick you in a can and ship you out of the company. My personal wild speculation is no worse than what etymology eggheads get paid the big bucks for. Just because you get it free in the Reader is no reason to sneer. Americans love slang and wordplay. And I guess Sleepy is going to have plenty of time for that now. And luckily the Reader will fit his new budget just fine.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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