The other day I heard the expression short shrift being used, and started wondering what a shrift might be, and why it’s a short one that’s usually given or received.
The expression to give short shrift means to ignore, disregard or exclude (sb/sth); to give (sb/sth) very little time or attention. For example “Despite its urgency, ministers are giving the issue short shrift in parliament.” [source].
The word shrift means the act of going to or hearing a religious confession; a confession to a priest, or forgiveness given by a priest after confession. It comes from the Middle English shrift (confession, penitence, repentance), from the Old English sċrift (penance, penalty, a judge), from sċrīfan (to prescribe absolution or penance; to pass judgment), from the Proto-Germanic *skrībaną (to write), from the Latin scrībō (I write), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kreybʰ- (to scratch, tear) [source].
Short shrift is a rushed sacrament of confession given to a prisoner who is to be executed very soon; a speedy execution, usually without any proper determination of guilt; a short interval of relief or time, or something dealt with or overcome quickly and without difficulty [source].
The word shrive (to hear or receive a confession; to prescribe penance or absolution) comes from the same roots [source]. So does shrove, an old word that means to join the fesitivities of Shrovetide or to make merry. It appears in the name Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent, also known as Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday [source] or Jif Lemon Day [source]. Other names are probably available.
So now we know.