Up Shit Creek Without a Shitgibbon?

A gibbon with its hand covering its mouth

This post on the word shit rounds out a parade of posts on fabulously versatile expletives.

Shit is useful as a verb beyond just the toilet sense. I like the construction of “I shit you not”; if you made it “I shit thee not,” it would almost sound classy. If you’re shitting on me rather than shitting me, that’s a lot less classy.

Shit can mean something, anything, or nothing. You can say he has lots of shit to do, he doesn’t know shit, or he’s got shit. It can also mean et cetera, as in he’s got to go the store and shit. There’s a certain inevitability to shit happening.

“No shit” does not, in fact, mean you are out of shit; rather, it means obviously, especially if you’re speaking to someone named Sherlock.

I would have thought that shit-kicking and kicking the shit out of someone would mean the same thing, but according to Urban Dictionary, shit-kicking also refers to line dancing. Urban Dictionary also says that a shitkicker is a farmer or a pair of heavy boots. And if that farmer goes line dancing with his heavy boots, you’ve really got yourself a shitstravaganza.

While I guess “shitty” would be the proper adjective form, I feel like it’s become increasingly common to drop the -ty. I could say I watched a shitty movie, but it seems like it would be just as natural for me to say I watched a shit movie.

I don’t think shit infixes the way fuck can. I would use it to replace a syllable rather than stick it between syllables, so instead of fan-fucking-tastic, I might say something was shit-tastic. Fucking wouldn’t go very well in catastrophe, but shit-tastrophe seems very workable.

If the shit starts flying, you might be in the midst of a shitshow or a shitstorm. While that shit is flying around, it might hit the fan. You can have shit in the form of a bag, a creek (but only if you forgot your paddle), or dipped (although I’m not sure if a dipshit is someone who is dipped in shit or likes to dunk other things in shit). Up shit creek made an appearance in the 1868 annual report of the US Secretary of War, which referred to Abraham Lincoln being in said creek (source). The paddle didn’t appear (or, rather, disappear) until about 70 years later. Wiktionary says that a variant of this is “up shit creek in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle,” although I haven’t come across that before. I can’t imagine that a barbed wire canoe floats in water or in shit.

Shit gets involved in food-related activity aside from dipping. I remember “eat shit and die” being a favourite of mine as a kid. Someone on Urban Dictionary gave “oh shit-biscuits” as an example of something you might say when “realising youve [sic] forgotten to wear clothes whilst in the middle of a flight to Ibeza [sic].” Because that’s a realistic scenario, right? I’m not sure if that would make going through airport security easier or harder. You might serve up a shit sandwich if you tell someone that they suck, and oh yeah, they did one thing right, but damn, they suck big-time. Then we’ve got this exchange from the movie Drowning Mona:

  • Danny DeVito’s character: “Life gives you potatoes, you make potato salad.”
  • Bette Midler’s character: “Well, life handed me a whole pile of shit. What am I supposed to make out of that?”
  • Steve Buscemi’s character: “Shit salad?”

If you drink too much, you might get shitfaced. Your face lives on your head, but being shitfaced and a shithead are two very different things.

If something is shit, then it’s bad, but if it’s “the shit,” then it’s good, unless you have “the shits,” in which case that’s bad again (JSTOR Daily).

A shitgibbon is not, in fact, a primate that is either made out of shit or a frequent toileter, but rather a contemptible person. This word appears to have been coined by a British writer circa 1990, but it made a star appearance on this side of the pond when Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach called President Trump a “fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon” (as per Slate), although it had been used before that by a Twitter user to refer to Trump.

The Language Jones blog offers instructions on how to construct shitgibbon-like words. You take your single-syllable expletive like shit and you match it up with a trochee, which is a 2-syllable word with the first syllable stressed. This allows you to let fly with gems like shitwaffle or, to get back to critters, shitpuffin.

If we’re talking about shit coming out of animals, bulls and horses seem to be favourites, but other animals’ shit has different meanings, like ratshit, chickenshit, and apeshit. Batshit not only means something different, but it’s used to modify another adjective rather than acting as an adjective on its own.

So there you have it, my friends. Another swear word that I managed to get a >500 word post out of.

47 thoughts on “Up Shit Creek Without a Shitgibbon?”

  1. Eloquently said as always, Ashley! One does need to listen to inflections and understand the flexibility of shit in order to appreciate the intended meaning given as how it could mean both something awesome and something awful. I think the word is super-shitting-tasting myself, though I think I prefer “fuck” as I age as it has a little more grit to it that suits my increasing anger. But “shit” is such a go-to word, so widely applicable and multipurpose. I just love this shit. I shit you not.

  2. Injustice: Due Process

    This is exactly what I needed to read today~ my IBS-C has nothing but shit on my mind and I find myself doing tons of shit except for the one that will improve my slightly shitty mood from being full of shit. I would say that I watched a shit movie too but my 21-year-old son would assume it’s a medical movie about shitting to encourage my digestive system. Not to be graphic but I know you worked in mental health and I currently do (I’m currently on ADA medical leave for anxiety) and there is a shitstorm of stigma, discrimination, and SHIT within that broken system where we watch people shit on those we’re supposed to give-a-shit about. Shit YEAH! I needed to say that. THANKS! You rock.

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