shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sun Sep 5 16:01:06 UTC 2010

G O'T:
Is it possible that the fined player was using the term as a noun?

shit, shite, n. 1. b. A contemptuous epithet applied to a person.

The first cite in the OED is 1508 for this sense. For example 1886 W.
Somerset Word-bk., Shit, a term of contempt. (Very com.) He's a
regular shit. Applied to men only.

Perhaps Ebenezer R. Dupignac called umpire Eugene Plunkett a "shit"
for making a bad call?

Garson's suggestion is very reasonable.  Possibly more reasonable, because it would have been a direct challenge to the umpire.

John Thorn has offered to look over his material from the Knickerbocker game books to give us a fuller context, if available, and to make sure that earlier instances of a Knickerbocker being fined for improper language did not quote the language.

According to the rules and practice of the Knickerbockers, there was only one umpire at a game, and he sat in a comfortable chair well off the field of play.  He did not call balls & strikes.  The pitcher was supposed to toss the ball where the batter could hit it, and only if either the pitcher seemed to be trying to pitch around the batter, or the batter for some reason was refusing to swing at hittable pitches, would the umpire start to call balls and strikes.  As far as play on the bases was concerned, the Knickerbockers wanted to be gentlemen, and wanted to observe the sort of sporting ethic that I believe is still (ideally) in effect in golf and tennis, where a player is expected to turn himself in if he makes a mistake that requires a penalty.  So the first baseman and the base runner should both know whether the runner was safe or out, and should agree in acknowledging the result.
In addition, there was a principle of decorum that existed into my youth, then disappeared very suddenly, that held that only the uncouth and vulgar ever used bad language.  In the 1950s, if someone knocked over a cup of coffee, one did not hear a loud Oh Shit! -- or if one did, it was likely to be followed by an embarrassed "Pardon my French".  The Knickerbocker who was fined for saying Shit! may not have been directing it at the umpire or expressing displeasure at a call.  He might have stubbed his toe on a base.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Date: Sunday, September 5, 2010 11:04 am
Subject: Re: shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)

> "Oh, shitte!" appears (in fancifully Elizabethan spelling) in Mark Twain's
> "1601" (written ca1880).
> I'm too lazy to check, but I believe that's the earliest unequivocal
> ex. in
> my files.

> Regarding a less frequent excremental idiom:
> *1799  *Old Bailey Proceedings*  [
>]:  Now, you
> sh----n son of a b-----, where is your ten pound duck now?  1938 Ezra
> Pound
> in Brita Lindberg-Seyersted, ed., *Pound/Ford: The Story of a Literary
> Friendship * (N.Y.: New Directions, 1982) 159: It is a shitten outrage
> that
> Johnnie Adams’ letters are out of print.
> In modern times, this is spelled "shittin'."
> JL
> On Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 7:15 AM, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>
> > Subject:      Re: shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)
> >
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > On Sat, Sep 04, 2010 at 09:22:45PM -0400, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> > > At 9/4/2010 06:29 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> > >> Wow!
> > >
> > > Undsoubtedly shit, but does a "s--t" qualify for the OED and the HDAS?
> >
> > Yes.
> >
> > Jesse Sheidlower
> > OED
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> >
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
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> The American Dialect Society -

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