"poo poo"; was Re: "Red hat, no drawers."

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Apr 4 22:23:49 UTC 2005

In a small graduate seminar in 1985 or '86 the professor actually raised the theoretical question of whether to "pooh-pooh" something was slang and why.  One student, working on her M.A., asked with some embarrassment how it could not be.  The professor clearly didn't get what she was driving at until she said something like, "Well, I always thought it was just plain dirty."

In an unrelated incident at about the same time, a friend of mine was discussing a story with a class of freshmen at the beginning of a fairly standard freshman-lit "unit" on "innocence and experience."  He happened to ask one student what led to the protagonist's "loss of innocence."

The student prickled and said she *wouldn't* answer the question.  Why not ?  Because, she responded indignantly, "I know what 'losing your innocence' means, and I don't talk about things like that in public."

"O tempura !  O morays !"


Christine Waigl <cwaigl at FREE.FR> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Christine Waigl
Subject: "poo poo"; was Re: "Red hat, no drawers."

Rex W. Stocklin wrote:

>Well, this is what I've got to say about the veracity of a Google
>search. If you search for, say, "poo-pooed", you'll get a batch of
>citations. I turned up 11,900 English pages. Almost to a one the
>authors MEANT "pooh-poohed", but in their haste, ignorance or
>whatever they got it wrong. No such official word exists, though it
>could be an alternate spelling of the child's scatological term for
>poop. Either poo-poo, poopoo or poo poo, I dunno. This is not my
>field of study.

I've prepared an entry on this for the Eggcorn Database
(http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/), but there are a few anomalies.

First of all, it would have to be marked as questionable, I think, because the
spelling of interjections ("pooh") is probably one of the more unstable fields.
On the other hand, people could think that to pooh-pooh something means to
convey that it is bullshit -- thus there is a possible connection to "poo".

AHD at bartleby.com (http://www.bartleby.com/61/) doesn't seem to have an entry
on "poo", while on answers.com there is one (http://www.answers.com/poo).
Strange. (Does bartleby.com otherwise censor the AHD?) They derive "poo" from
"pooh" ("probably"). Not from "poop", for which they don't seem to be overly
sure of the etymology either.

I'm also unsure about the register of "poo" -- infantile euphemism? Or is the
word considered as obscene? Or more like "pee"?

Chris Waigl


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