Nobody is quite sure how being fired or laid off came to be termed through getting a pink slip. Common knowledge holds that in some indeterminate past, when people were fired, they received a document printed on pink paper stating so. However, English language experts now disagree with this consensus.
While trivia masters and others like to believe they know the origin of the term pink slip, actual studies and research has failed to uncover any truth to the statement. Among those who is the most vocal in pointing this out is Jesse Sheidlower, an editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Mr. Sheidlower points out that evidence exists of pink documents being used in various contexts, but none of them point directly to being laid off. He states that the earliest example that can be found for the use of a pink slip comes from around 1900 as a note that is given to a typographer whenever a mistake is made in their copy. Apparently, if a typographer collected enough pink slips, he or she would be fired.
In 1905, pink slips were found to be used as rejection notices from magazines to writers submitting articles. Pink documents were evidently in use, but it wasn’t until 1906 when the term came to used. It was in a newspaper article in Atlanta that said fear of getting a pink slip makes professional athletes perform better. Another similar instance was in a 1915 novel about baseball.
Many people have jumped out of the woodwork upon hearing the news that pink slips are nonexistent. Many claim to have been given a pink page from a triplicate form when they were fired. The yellow and white copies were for the employer and government agencies. The pink copy was for the employee. Surprisingly, no one can produce one of these fabled pink slips.
One theory that is gaining prominence is that it is an Americanized metaphor for being fired that was borrowed from other countries. France and Germany have verifiable colored rejection letters. Germans get a blue letter when they are fired. In France, when members of the military are dismissed, they get a yellow paper.
So, while it seems that the origin of the term pink slip should be easily traceable, the fact of the matter is that it is a mystery that may never be solved.
Posted 637 day ago