An obscure bit of military slang

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 25 15:15:05 UTC 2008

On Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 9:36 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> Back in the day, my roommate told me the following Firesign Theater
> routine:
> [Intro that I've forgotten]
> Quizmaster: That's right, Mrs. Jones! you are a winner! Now, please
> make your choice. Will you choose what's behind the golden door or
> what's in this brown paper bag?
> Mrs. Smith: I choose what's in that brown paper bag.
> [Sound of crinkling as brown paper bag is opened]
> Mrs. Smith [in state of shock]: Why, why, this is a bag of shit!!!
> Quizmaster [voice filled with joy] Yes, Mrs. Smith, It's shit! But
> it's _GOOD_ shit!!!
> I blush to admit it, but, even though when I first heard this bit
> (summer of 1972), it cracked me up and "It's shit, but it's *good*
> shit!" became a catchphrase in our clique, it was only a few weeks ago
> that it was explained to me that the "shit" in the brown bag was
> Acapulco gold. *That* was why the shit was *good* shit!
> That is, for 36 years, I had completely missed the point of the
> routine. For all this time, I had thought that the "bag of shit" was
> literally a bag of shit! What I found funny was the idea that the
> quizmaster could seriously think that anyone would consider a bag of
> shit, as long as the shit was, in some sense, "good" shit, to be
> something desirable.
> This despite the fact that, years before, in an Amsterdam club, a
> Dutch West Indian had asked me, "Say, mon. You go for that shit?" I
> had immediately understood that he was trying to con me into buying a
> bag of oregano that was supposed to be weed and was by no means asking
> whether I was interested in literal shit. And, in Deutschlisch,
> "Schitt" always has / had? the meaning, "marijuana, grass, weed," etc.
> IAC, now that I understand the true import of the routine, I've been
> as happy as a pig in shit.
> -Wilson

That sounds to me like a post facto interpretation. If Mrs. Smith had been
someone likely to recognize and appreciate Acapulco Gold, she wouldn't have
reacted with dismay or in those words. I can see the routine as playing off
the phrase "good shit", but the joke (IMHO) is in the prize's being a
literal bag of shit -- the absurdity is very Firesignly--, and maybe
secondarily in the literal use of the idiom that Mrs. Smith is probably
totally in the dark about.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list