Shit is an English word that is usually considered vulgar and profane in Modern English. As a noun it refers to fecal matter (excrement) and as a verb it means to defecate or defecate in; in the plural ("the shits") it means diarrhea. Shite is also a common variant in British English and Irish English. As a slang term, it has many meanings, including: nonsense, foolishness, something of little value or quality, trivial and usually boastful or inaccurate talk, or a contemptible person. It may also be used as an expression of annoyance, surprise, or anger.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Usage
- 3 Usage in media
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The word is likely derived from Old English, having the nouns scite (dung, attested only in place names) and scitte (diarrhoea), and the verb scītan (to defecate, attested only in bescītan, to cover with excrement); eventually it morphed into Middle English schītte (excrement), schyt (diarrhoea) and shiten (to defecate), and it is virtually certain that it was used in some form by preliterate Germanic tribes at the time of the Roman Empire. The word may be further traced to Proto-Germanic *skit-, and ultimately to Proto-Indo-European *skheid- "cut, separate", the same root believed to have become the word shed. The word has several cognates in modern Germanic languages, such as German Scheiße, Dutch schijt, Swedish skit, Icelandic skítur, Norwegian skitt etc. Ancient Greek had 'skōr' (gen. 'skatos' hence 'scato-'), from Proto-Indo-European *sker-, which is likely unrelated.
In the word's literal sense, it has a rather small range of common usages. An unspecified or collective occurrence of feces is generally shit or some shit; a single deposit of feces is sometimes a shit or a piece of shit, and to defecate is to shit, to take a shit. While it is common to speak of shit as existing in a pile, a load, a hunk and other quantities and configurations, such expressions flourish most strongly in the figurative. For practical purposes, when actual defecation and excreta are spoken of, it is either through creative euphemism or with a vague and fairly rigid literalism.[original research?]
Piece of shit may also be used figuratively to describe a particularly loathsome individual.
Shit can be used as a generic mass noun similar to stuff; for instance, This show is funny shit or This test is hard shit, or That was stupid shit. These three usages (with funny, hard, and stupid or another synonym of stupid) are heard most commonly in the United States.
In the expression Get your shit together! the word shit may refer to some set of personal belongings or tools, or to one's wits, composure, or attention to the task at hand. He doesn't have his shit together suggests he is failing rather broadly, with the onus laid to multiple personal shortcomings, rather than bad luck or outside forces.
To shoot the shit is to have a friendly but pointless conversation, as in "Come by my place some time and we'll shoot the shit."
To shit oneself, or to shit bricks can be used to refer to surprise or fear, often in the future. The latter form can be commonly seen in a form of Internet meme which goes by the phrase when you see it, you will shit bricks, used in connection with an image of a busy scene with an often unnoticed laughing face or disturbing object which is hard to see until you study the picture.
The word can also be used to represent anger, as in Jim is totally going to flip his shit when he sees that we wrecked his marriage.
Shit can be used to denote trouble, by saying one is in a lot of shit or deep shit. It's common for someone to refer to an unpleasant thing as hard shit (You got a speeding ticket? Man, that's some hard shit), but the phrase tough shit is used as an unsympathetic way of saying too bad to whoever is having problems (You got arrested? Tough shit, man!) or as a way of expressing to someone that they need to stop complaining about something and cope with it instead (Billy: I got arrested because of you! Tommy: Tough shit, dude, you knew you might get arrested when you chose to come with me.) Note that in this case, as in many cases with the term, tough shit is often said as a way of pointing out someone's fault in his/her own current problem. It's also common to express annoyance by simply saying Shit.
When the shit hits the fan is usually used to refer to a specific time of confrontation or trouble, which requires decisive action. This is often used in reference to combat situations and the action scenes in movies, but can also be used for everyday instances that one might be apprehensive about. I don't want to be here when the shit hits the fan! indicates that the speaker is dreading this moment (which can be anything from an enemy attack to confronting an angry parent or friend). He's the one to turn to when the shit hits the fan is an indication that the person being talked about is dependable and will not run from trouble or abandon their allies in tough situations. The concept of this phrase is simple enough, as the actual substance striking the rotating blades of a fan would cause a messy and unpleasant situation (much like being in the presence of a manure spreader). Whether or not this has actually happened, or if the concept is simply feasible enough for most people to imagine the result without needing it to be demonstrated, is unknown. Another example might be the saying shit rolls downhill, a metaphor suggesting that trouble for a manager may be transferred to the subordinates. There are a number of anecdotes and jokes about such situations, as the imagery of these situations is considered to be funny. This is generally tied-in with the concept that disgusting and messy substances spilled onto someone else are humorous.
Shit can comfortably stand in for the terms bad and anything in many instances (Dinner was good, but the movie was shit. You're all mad at me, but I didn't do shit!). A comparison can also be used, as in Those pants look like shit, or This stuff tastes like shit. Many usages are idiomatic. I'm shit out of luck usually refers to someone who is at the end of their wits or who has no remaining viable options. That little shit shot me in the ass, suggests a mischievous or contemptuous person. Euphemisms such as crap are not used in this context.
The term piece of shit is generally used to classify a product or service as being sufficiently below the writer's understanding of generally accepted quality standards to be of negligible and perhaps even negative value. The term piece of shit has greater precision than shit or shitty in that piece of shit identifies the low quality of a specific component or output of a process without applying a derogatory slant to the entire process. For example, if one said "The inner city youth orchestra has been a remarkably successful initiative in that it has kept young people off the streets after school and exposed them to culture and discipline, thereby improving their self esteem and future prospects. The fact that the orchestra's recent rendition of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony in B minor was pretty much a piece of shit should not in any way detract from this." The substitution of shit or shitty for pretty much a piece of shit would imply irony and would therefore undermine the strength of the statement.
The term "(blank) don't/doesn't give a shit" can be used when one does not care about something, or has a passive attitude toward said thing, as it denotes indifference. In context, one can say: "You're offended? Well, I don't give a shit!"
Shit can also be used to establish superiority over another being. The most common phrase is eat shit! expressing hatred of the addressee. Some other personal word may be added such as eat my shit implying truly personal connotations. As an aside, the above is actually a contraction of the phrase eat shit and die!. It is often said without commas as a curse; they command the other party to perform exactly those actions in that order. However, the term was originally Eat, Shit, and Die naming the three most basic things humans have to do, and it is common among soldiers.
The phrase You ain't shit, expresses an air of intimidation over the addressee, expressing that they mean nothing or are worthless.
In slang, prefixing the article the to shit gives it a completely opposite definition, meaning the best, as in Altered Beast is the shit, or The Oregon Trail is the shit. Again, other slang words of the same meaning, crap for example, are not used in such locutions.
Shortening of bullshit
The expression no shit? (a contraction of no bullshit?) is used in response to a statement that is extraordinary or hard to believe. Alternatively the maker of the hard-to-believe statement may add no shit to reinforce the sincerity or truthfulness of their statement, particularly in response to someone expressing disbelief at their statement. No shit is also used sarcastically in response to a statement of the obvious, as in no shit, Sherlock.
In this form the word can also be used in phrases such as don't give me that shit or you're full of shit. The term full of shit is often used as an exclamation to charge someone who is believed to be prone to dishonesty, exaggeration or is thought to be "phoney" with an accusation. For example:
- "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to invite you to the party, it was a complete accident... But you really didn't miss anything anyway."
- "You're full of shit! You had dozens of opportunities to invite me. If you have a problem with me, why not say it!"
The word bullshit also denotes false or insincere discourse. (Horseshit is roughly equivalent, while chickenshit means cowardly, batshit indicates a person is crazy, and going apeshit indicates a person is entering a state of high excitement or unbridled rage.) Are you shitting me?! is a question sometimes given in response to an incredible assertion. An answer that reasserts the veracity of the claim is, I shit you not.
Perhaps the only constant connotation that shit reliably carries is that its referent holds some degree of emotional intensity for the speaker. Whether offense is taken at hearing the word varies greatly according to listener and situation, and is related to age and social class: elderly speakers and those of (or aspiring to) higher socioeconomic strata tend to use it more privately and selectively than younger and more blue-collar speakers.
Like the word fuck, shit is often used to add emphasis more than to add meaning, for example, shit! I was so shit-scared of that shithead that I shit-talked him into dropping out of the karate match! The term to shit-talk connotes bragging or exaggeration (whereas to talk shit primarily means to gossip [about someone in a damaging way] or to talk in a boastful way about things which are erroneous in nature), but in such constructions as the above, the word shit often functions as an interjection.
Unlike the word fuck, shit is not used emphatically with -ing or as an infix. For example; I lost the shitting karate match would be replaced with ...the fucking karate match. Similarly, while in-fucking-credible is generally acceptable, in-shitting-credible is not.
The verb "to shit"
The preterite and past participle of shit are attested as shat, shit, or shitted, depending on dialect and, sometimes, the rhythm of the sentence. In the prologue of The Canterbury Tales, shitten is used as the past participle; however this form is very rare in modern English. In American English shit as a past participle is often correct, while shat is generally acceptable and shitted is uncommon and missing from the Random House and American Heritage dictionaries.
The backronym form "S.H.I.T." often figures into jokes, like Special High Intensity Training (a well-known joke used in job applications), Special Hot Interdiction Team (a mockery on SWAT), Super Hackers Invitational Tournament, and any college name that begins with an S-H (like Sam Houston Institute of Technology or South Harmon Institute of Technology in the 2006 film Accepted or Store High In Transit in the 2006 film Kenny). South Hudson Institute of Technology has sometimes been used to describe the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Simpsons' Apu was a graduate student at Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.
In polite company, sometimes the backronym Sugar Honey in Tea or Sugar Honey Iced Tea is used.
Shart, as a portmanteau of the words shit and fart, became popular after its usage in the 2004 film Along Came Polly. It refers to an undesirable situation where one intends to pass gas, but expels diarrhea instead.
Usage in media
Recently the word has become increasingly acceptable on American cable television and satellite radio, which are not subject to FCC regulation. In other English-speaking countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand the word is allowed to be used in broadcast television by the regulative councils of each area, as long as it is used in late hours when young people are not expected to be watching. It has appeared on ABC News' 20/20.
The Canadian Showcase television show Trailer Park Boys frequently uses the term "shit". Trailer park supervisor James "Jim" Lahey employs many metaphors with the negative slang "shit" bizarrely worked in. For example, in one episode, Mr. Lahey likens Ricky's growing ignorance to that of a "shit tsunami", while in another episode, Mr. Lahey tells Bubbles that the "shit hawks are swooping in low" due to his deplorable behavior and company.
"Shit" was one of the original "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV", a comedy routine by American Comedian George Carlin. In the United States, although the use of the word is censored on broadcast network television (while its synonym crap is not usually subject to censorship), the FCC permitted some exceptions. The 14 October 1999 episode of Chicago Hope is believed to be the first show (excluding documentaries) on U.S. network television to contain the word shit in uncensored form. The word also is used in a later ER episode "On the Beach" by Dr. Mark Greene, experiencing the final stages of a deadly brain tumor. Although the episode was originally aired uncensored, the "shit" utterance has since been edited out in syndicated reruns.
An episode of South Park, "It Hits the Fan", originally aired on 20 June 2001, was a parody of the hype over the Chicago Hope episode. "Shit" is used 162 times, and a counter in the corner of the screen tallies the repetitions. South Park airs on American cable networks, outside the regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where censorship of vulgar dialogue is at the discretion of the cable operators. Since then, the word has become a mainstay of South Park, along with programming on other cable networks including FX and as of March 2014, Adult Swim.
American terrestrial radio stations must abide by FCC guidelines on obscenity to avoid punitive fines, unlike satellite radio. These guidelines do not define exactly what constitutes obscenity, but it has been interpreted by some commissioners as including any form of words like shit and fuck, for whatever use.
Despite this, the word has been featured in popular songs that have appeared on broadcast radio in cases where the usage of the word is not audibly clear to the casual listener, or on live television. In the song "Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains, the line "Buried in my shit" was played unedited over most rock radio stations. The 1973 Pink Floyd song "Money" from the album Dark Side of the Moon contains the line "Don't give me that do goody good bullshit," and has frequently been broadcast unedited on US radio. The 1980 hit album Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon contained the song "Tough Guys" which had the line "she thinks they're full of shit," which was played on broadcast radio. On 3 December 1994, Green Day performed "Geek Stink Breath", on Saturday Night Live, shit was not edited from tape delay live broadcast. The band did not appear on the show again until 9 April 2005.
Some notable instances of censorship of the word from broadcast television and radio include Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner." Although radio stations have sometimes played an unedited version containing the line "funky shit going down in the city." The songs was also released with a "radio edit" version, replacing the "funky shit" with "funky kicks". Another version of "Jet Airliner" exists in which the word "shit" is faded out. Likewise, the Bob Dylan song "Hurricane" has a line about having no idea "what kind of shit was about to go down," and has a radio edit version without the word. Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" video had the original album's use of the word censored in its video. The music video title "...On the Radio (Remember the Days)" by Nelly Furtado replaced by the original title "Shit on the Radio (Remember the Days)." This also happened to "That's That Shit" by Snoop Dogg featuring R. Kelly, which became "That's That". In Avril Lavigne's song "My Happy Ending," the Radio Disney edit of the song replaces "all the shit that you do" with "all the stuff that you do." Likewise, in the song "London Bridge" by the Black Eyed Peas member Fergie, the phrase "Oh Shit" is repeatedly used as a background line. A radio edit of this song replaced "Oh Shit" with "Oh Snap."
- "Shite". Cambridge Dictionary Online. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- Harper, Douglas. "shit". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 6 September 2008.
- "Shit". dictionary.reference.com.
- "The Origin of the S-Word". About.com. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
- "Graham Chapman's funeral". YouTube.
- "Trailer Park Boys homepage". Retrieved 4 December 2010.
- Trailer Park Boys – Complete Third Season, Alliance Atlantis, 2003 TPB III Productions. Disc 2
- "South Park Libertarians". Reason Magazine.
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