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All About the Word Shit

Shit. In my youth, if one used that word out loud one was admonished. It was generally regarded as a swearword; and unless one was in a rage, it was unacceptable to use in conversation. Apart from being thought of as a profanity, the word was also considered vulgar and degrading to use.

These days, the word is, if not entirely acceptable, then so much more commonplace and not considered as offensive as it once was. To a certain extent, media has had a role in the proliferation of the word’s use. There are still American channels that toot out the word; but in movies and television series values have become liberalised.

At any rate, the word shit traces its etymology to old English, the language used by the Anglo-Saxon tribes who settled England from Germany during the Middle Ages. Scite was the word used for dung or feces. Scitte meant diarrhoea and as a verb, scitan was used to connote the act of defecating. It could also mean to cover with feces.

In the Middle English dialect used in England in the Late Middle Ages, scite had evolved into schïtte, scitte into schyt and the verb scitan to the more recognisable shiten.

As mentioned, in its most literal sense, the word shit refers to excrement or fecal matter. It is when it is used loosely that the word can take the meaning of just about anything.

A lie can also be loosely called as shit. “You’re telling me shit.” Shit can also refer to something of inferior quality. “The phone you sold me is shit!”

In movies, I have heard the word used to mean drugs or gun. “Do you have shit in you?” Do you have drugs in you? “Bring your shit when you go to the alley.” Bring your gun when you go to the alley.

Sometimes the word is used to refer to something unfortunate, such as in the universally popular t-shirt slogan “Shit happens.”

It can also be used in place of ‘thing’ or ‘something.’ For instance, “What’s that shit on your wrist?” It can also be, “There’s shit on the side of your face.”

The word may also be used to mean ‘act,’ such as in “Get your shit together.” It can also mean trouble, such as in ‘deep shit.’ Sometimes, it is used to express hatred, such as in “Eat shit!”

In American comedies, sometimes the word is overused as a replacement for just about anything, pretty much the way we use k’wan as a convenient substitute. “Who’s that shit who went to that shit to get some shit?”

Diarrhoea is informally referred to as “the shits.”

As an interjection, shit is used either by itself or as part of a short phrase such as “Oh shit!” The expression is used to convey –among other things – disgust, disappointment, frustration, contempt, surprise or fear.

It can also be an expression of incredulity. “No shit.” This can mean “Really?” or it can also be used sarcastically.

As an adjective, the word can be used to mean something not very nice or good. “You look like shit!” is not very flattering. Neither is “This food tastes like shit!”

It can also be used to mean exactly the opposite or something that is awesome. “That car chase was really shit!”

In the literal sense, the word shit as a verb means to defecate. It is when used loosely that it becomes colourful.

“You’re shitting me!” can me you’re not telling the truth or are exaggerating. It can also be a substitute for any verb verb. “Why’d you shit on the couch?” is a question asking why one is lying on the couch.

The word can also be used to emphasize something. “Why the shit did you say that?” In this instance, it is a substitute for a ruder word.

Then there is the use of the word idiomatically. “I don’t give a shit!” means “I don’t care!” “Up shit’s creek without a paddle” means one is in big trouble.

The word can also be appended to the name of any living organism that defecates; e.g. bullshit, horseshit, dogshit or chickenshit. All of these can be used literally or in a very rude context.

That’s about shit! Did I miss any shit?

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