Squat - revisited

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue May 28 11:52:28 UTC 2002

In my speech "squat" also means simply nothing, a rather obvious
extension of the "worthless" sense of "shit."

I went fishing and got shit/squat = nothing
I went fishing and got shit/squat = nothing worth catching/keeping

In fact, for me, the "nothing" reading is stronger for "squat."


PS: For regional idiomatic speech freaks, in the Ohio Valley (S IN, S
IL, N KY region) we also got "what the little boy shot at" when we
got nothing. Is this more widespread?

>This afternoon, reading through the Smithsonian, March 2002, p. 50, in an
>article about pigeon racing called Flights of Fancy I found this:
>"Back to the cell phone.  'Yo, you heard? Bert & Harry got one at 2:16.  I
>ain't kidding. Nobody else got squat.  I haven't seen a feather.'"  The
>speaker is waiting for his racing birds to fly in to NYC from West Virginia.
>I've always equated squat with a genteel euphemism shit.  One can certainly
>interchange the two in most usages and convey the same meaning--nothing
>valuable or a degree less than valuable.  Paired with piddly (piddly-squat,
>a favorite exclamation of disappoint my mother uses), squat is a rather
>graphic bathroom image that evokes nothing worth having or keeping.
>The phrase "I got squat" is reminiscent of  "I could care less", both ironic
>positive constructions of the negative condition ("I ain't got squat"; "I
>couldn't care less.").

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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