The phrase ‘goody two shoes’ is now used in judgement of someone who is moral to the point of being obnoxious. Use of this term began in the late 19th or early 20th century, though back then it had a far more positive meaning. In fact, thanks to a book published in 1765, the phrase actually became something to which children were encouraged to aspire.
The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes has been credited with being the first children’s novel written in English. There remains some speculation over who is the author, but a man named Oliver Goldsmith is popularly cited.
The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is about two orphans, Margery and Tommy Meanwell. Poor Margery only has one shoe. One day, a nice gentleman gives her a pair and Margery goes about telling everyone how happy she is to have ‘two shoes’. Margery grows up to become a teacher. A local landowner, taken by her honesty and good sense, marries Margery and eventually she inherits his fortune, which she uses to help the poor.
The book has a strong undertone of how to be a good and moral person but it was actually written to entertain. It even includes a witty remark on the title page: “See the Original Manuscript in the Vatican at Rome, and the Cuts by Michael Angelo.”
And there you have the origin story of ‘goody two shoes’.