Shit: Figurative and Literal Meanings

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  • Topic: Shit, Feces, Profanity
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  • Published : August 29, 2010
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The word shit (or sometimes shite in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Northern England and Wales) is used by English speakers, but it is usually avoided in formal speech. Minced oath substitutes for the word shit in English include sugar and shoot.

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 and a new variant to leave 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 in English, it is either through creative euphemism or with a vague and fairly rigid literalism.

"Shit" can also be combined with other words to denote the type of feces one has. For instance, "Snake shit" describes feces that are long and thin in shape, thus reminiscent of a snake's appearance. "Shapeepee" or "Shit pee pee" is another word for diarrhea, or can be used to describe feces that are almost entirely of liquid composition.

Shit carries an encompassing variety of figurative meanings, explained in the following sections. Vague noun

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 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." Surprise

To shit oneself, or to shit bricks can be used to refer to surprise or fear. 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] Trouble

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 just deal with it (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.

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...
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