goldbrick

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

gold +‎ brick, originally (1850s) an actual gold ingot or “gold brick/goldbrick”,[1] later a swindle that consisted of selling a putative goldbrick, which was only coated in gold. The swindle is attested from 1879,[1] the sense “to swindle” is attested 1902, and the sense “to shirk” is attested 1914, popularized as World War I armed forces slang.[2] In early 1900s, used to refer to an unattractive young woman – not pretty, nor able to talk or dance (attested 1903), thence to refer to incompetent enlisted troops at the start of World War I, reinforced by the rank insignia of second lieutenants, which was a gold rectangle.[1]

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

goldbrick (plural goldbricks)

  1. A gold brick, especially one that is fraudulent or nonexistent; also used figuratively, a swindle, a con.
    • 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Smart Set, January 1920, collected in Tales of the Jazz Age:
      Experience is the biggest gold brick in the world. All older people have it for sale.
    • 1932, Rafael De Nogales, Memoirs Of A Soldier Of Fortune, Kessinger Publishing (2006), ISBN 9781428658349, page 98:
      These, as a rule, were not adverse to buying a goldbrick as long as they knew that there was a chance for them to dump it on somebody else afterwards with some profit.
    • 1932, in Harper’s Magazine, Volume 166,[1] page 520:
      To-day, American attitude toward Europe is comparable to that of the country greenhorn who, having bought a goldbrick on Broadway, now fills the air not merely with the denunciation of the sharpers who tricked his credulity — []
    • 1945, in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Immigration Bulletin, Volumes 422–433,[2] page 5:
      The average farmer may be less of a victim than some other people by reason of his isolation, conservatism, and hard earned money, but he, too, has too often bought a goldbrick that did not materialize.
    • c. 1967, Edmund Wilson, quoted in Lewis M. Dabney, Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature,[3][4] Macmillan (2005), ISBN 9780374113124, page 485:
      [] that if he bought a goldbrick from Podhoretz for $25,000, he ought to pay me more than the $5,000 a volume that had been agreed on for the pure gold []
  2. (US slang, dated) A shirker or malingerer
    • 1945, Dr. Charley Haly, quoted in Doc: heroic stories of medics, corpsmen, and surgeons in combat by Mark R. Littleton, p. 68
      Mac, there’s not a confounded thing wrong with you. You are an excellent physical specimen and in good health. You’re nothing but a goldbrick. Now, get your butt out of here and don’t ever come back again unless you’re really sick or need an immunization.
    • 2004 (written circa 1990), Howard Ashman, Aladdin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, “Proud of your Boy”:
      Tell me that I’ve been a louse and loafer
      You won’t get a fight here, no ma’am
      Say I’m a goldbrick, a good-off, no good
      But that couldn’t be all that I am
  3. (US slang, dated) A swindler

Verb[edit]

goldbrick (third-person singular simple present goldbricks, present participle goldbricking, simple past and past participle goldbricked)

  1. (US slang, dated) To shirk or malinger
  2. (US slang, dated) To swindle

Derived terms[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Goldbricking, World Wide Words, Michael Quinion
  2. ^ goldbrick” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).