more shit

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Sep 23 18:39:08 UTC 2011

On Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 02:32:42PM -0400, Laurence Horn wrote:
> I guess I've always processed the two as similar, but that's because I
> never thought about it. I'm sure you're right, especially as to
> origin, whether or not the original reference was to dogs. Let's see
> what OED has…
> 'designating a broad grin expressing uncontrollable delight or
> self-satisfaction, esp. characterized by awareness of having got away
> with something normally considered outrageous or improper; (also)
> designating a consciously disarming, self-deprecating, slightly cheeky
> grin, often used to deflect censure or disapproval'
> I agree that a shit-faced grin should be quite different. But both
> happy shit in their own way. (And that's an interesting semantic shift
> above, from the awareness of getting away with something improper to
> disarming, and self-deprecating. I wonder if the latter meaning
> bespeaks a relation between shit-eating grins and sheepish ones.

Larry, as long as we're semantically shifting, don't forget sense (b),
"Designating an ingratiating, uncomfortable, or forced smile, esp. in
response to a humiliating experience."

This is perfectly illustrated by one of my favorite quotes in the OED,
certainly way up there in the pantheon of contextual quotes that make it
perfectly clear what's going on:

  1995 _Harper's Mag._ Nov. 51/2 To describe the expression on Dole's face
  at this moment as a ‘shit-eating grin’ would be to imply that Dole is
  grinning; he is not. He is eating shit.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

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