Posted by ESC on November 11, 2003
In Reply to: Goldbricking posted by Andrew on November 11, 2003
: Trying to find out the origin of the term "Goldbricking" as meaning feigning sickness to avoid work.
GOLDBRICK - "Of course the original 'gold brick' was of the pure metal which, for convenience in handling, had been melted and molded into brick form. But skullduggery reared its ugly head among Western promoters of mining properties, and, especially after 1880, many of these gentlemen began to create bricks of identical form of lead, coated with gold. Gullible Easterners with money to invest were taken in by scores in mines from which these 'gold bricks' were alleged to have been produced, until eventually this term begame synonymous with a swindle, with faking. Later, first as military slang, to 'goldbrick' became 'to fake industrious toil, to shirk'; and 'goldbricker,' 'a shirker.'" From "2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).
Another source (Merriam-Webster online at http://www.m-w.com/home.htm ):
Main Entry: gold.brick
1 a : a worthless brick that appears to be of gold b : something that appears to be valuable but is actually worthless
2 : a person who shirks assigned work