Definitions

Shoehorn

Shoehorn

[shoo-hawrn]
A shoehorn is a tool that allows the user to put on a shoe more easily. It does so by keeping the shoe open and by providing a smooth surface for the foot and particularly the heel to move, without crushing the shoe's counter (the vertical portion of the shoe that wraps around the back of the foot), in this way acting as a first class lever.

Originally, shoe horns were made of wood, which is still a common material, although plastics are now used more often. They were also made of metal, glass and even paper. Expensive shoe horns were made from ivory, silver, shell, or bone.

Shoehorns have been used for advertising and many people collect them.

There are various models of shoe horns. Long handled shoe horns, for example, are used to reduce bending and straining by persons lacking joint mobility, while shoe horns with sturdy handles are useful for putting on boots or heavy shoes. More recently, expensive shoe horns have found their way to market. For example, designer Ralph Lauren currently offers a shoe horn retailing at $250.

A shoehorn was famously used to convict Brian James Urquart of the murders of three prostitutes in Detroit who had used it to try on the shoe of one of his victims and thus it contained traces of both parties' DNA.

Turn of phrase

"Shoehorning" has come to mean the act of coercing or pressuring an individual into a situation which does not leave enough room, either literally or figuratively. Shoehorning in a conversational context means to force someone to take one of a limited number of positions, neither of which may adequately express what the individual wants to say (a "For me or against me"-scenario). Shoehorning in a more literal sense can express itself as pushing a number of individuals into an overfilled enclosure of space, such as a theater or a bus ("The usher shoehorned us into the back of the crowded theatre"). Shoehorning can also refer to an unnatural-seeming inclusion of something for reasons which may range anywhere from demographic-pleasing or political correctness (for example, a token character in a television show or film).

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