shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Sun Sep 5 17:57:59 UTC 2010

... although "shite" and "shit", while closely related, aren't strictly
commutative.  (As is also the case with the distinction between "ass" and
"arse" -- thus, UK "a rat's arse," but no corresponding USA locution, "a
rat's ass", if I have this right.)

The OED under GOBSHITE n -- Sense 2: " A stupid, incompetent, or gullible
person" -- gives only the spellings: "19- gobshite, 19- gobshyte", thus no

The extended derogatory sense of "shit/shite" (as in "an utter shit" -- a
singularly worthless person) may (I stress, "may"), via "gobshite", extend
as far back as the mid-sixteenth century.

Thomas Harman, in _A Caveat for Common Cursitors_, records a remark in cant
made by a Rogue to an Upright Man: "Gerry gan!  The ruffian cly thee!",
englished by Harman as, "A turd in thy mouth!  the devil take thee!"

This is picked up by the character Wasp in Ben Jonson's _Bartholomew Fair_,
where in its englished form, it becomes his repeated catchphrase, "turd i'
your teeth."

(For further uses in English drama, see Robert William Dent, _Proverbial
language in English drama exclusive of Shakespeare_, 1495-1616: (1984),
"T607:  A TURD in his (your) teeth":

Perhaps in the course of time, a turd (gerry) in the teeth, or shit in the
mouth (gan) evolves into the more familiar "gobshite".

To which one is tempted to respond, in tones of incredulity, "No shit!"


From: "Jonathan Lighter" <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, September 05, 2010 4:02 PM
Subject:      Re: shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)

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> Subject:      Re: shit! (coarse exclamation of annoyance or disgust)
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> "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.
> Garson's suggestion is very reasonable.  Possibly more reasonable, because
> it would have been a direct challenge to the umpire.
> 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=92 letters are out of print.
> In modern times, this is spelled "shittin'."
> JL
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
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