shit or go blind WAS Rastus (was: "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917))

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 10 02:44:59 UTC 2007

At 9:31 PM -0500 12/9/07, Wilson Gray wrote:
>Unfortunately, I know it only from my years in the military in the
>late 'Fifties and early 'Sixties. I may be the only person that I now
>know who uses the expression.

Mebbe so, but there are 3470 people (more or less) you don't know who
still do, including some who want to know why.  I like the first hit,
which informs us that it's "a euphemism for an impossible situation".
So a disjunction with "shit" as the first disjunct is used as a
euphemism to avoid referring directly to the socially taboo notion of
impossible situations.  (With euphemisms like that, who needs


>I like it because it's essentially
>meaningless. But then, that's its point.
>On Dec 9, 2007 7:57 PM, James Harbeck <jharbeck at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
>>  Subject:      Re: shit or go blind WAS Rastus (was: "Jazz Means
>>Happy and Loose
>>                Like" (1917))
>>  >not knowing whether
>>  >to shit or go blind
>>  I love that expression and have not succeeded so far in finding an
>>  account of its origin. Any ideas, y'all?
>>  James Harbeck.
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>                                               -Sam'l Clemens
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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