Rap slang shiznit (great, cool)--Residual uncertainty

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Feb 4 19:55:21 UTC 2004

At 12:17 PM -0600 2/4/04, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>  I think I can answer the question that I asked this morning.
>>... But how does the concept "excrement" come to express "great,
>>cool, fantastic"? What am I missing here?
>   The answer is that the term for excrement was applied to drugs (See
>John Bassett McCleary's _Hippie Dictionary_, Berkeley: Ten Speed
>Press, 2002),
>and the presence or arrival of drugs is what must have originally
>been regarded as great/cool/fantastic.
>Gerald Cohen

I'm not sure this derivation is obvious.  For one thing, the
drug-related sense is a mass noun
("That's some great shit") and isn't necessarily positive, while "the
shit" in the use we're discussing is intrinsically positive, is a
count noun, and requires the article, as Kathleen Miller noted.  Plus
the latter is regionally or generationally restricted--I was
unfamiliar with it until recently--while "shit" for 'drugs' has been
widespread for ages (too bad there's no S volume for the HDAS) and
represents, as far as I can tell, a context-induced narrowing of the
more general mass noun "shit" for 'stuff' (as in "have one's shit
together", "have a lot of shit [= possessions]", "pack up one's
shit", etc.).


More information about the Ads-l mailing list