Early example of "crap out"?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Mar 24 20:16:06 UTC 2001

The game of craps has been around for a long time, and I suppose "crap out"
(i.e., pass the dice after rolling seven while trying to make one's point)
has been too. But the expanded meaning of "crap out" seems more recent, as
in "He crapped out" = "He got tired and quit"/"He went to sleep" or "My car
crapped out" = "My car stopped running" or "My program ran fine for a while
but then it crapped out".

In an 1887 Chesnutt story I came across the following passage.

[Background: A magical spell (a "goopher") supposedly has been placed on a
vineyard, so that those who eat the grapes soon die. Now maybe >20 years
have passed and the vineyard is abandoned and up for sale, most or all of
the enchanted vines supposedly long dead and replaced by other vines.]

"En I tell yer w'at, marster, I would n' 'vise yer to buy dis yer ole
vimya'd, 'caze de goopher 's on it yit, en dey am' no tellin' w'en it 's
gwine ter crap out."

My tentative translation: "And I tell you what, master, I wouldn't advise
you to buy this here old vineyard, because the spell is on it yet, and
there is no telling when it [i.e., the spell] is going to crap out."

My initial supposition: this is an early example of the metaphoric "crap
out", here = "expire"/"become exhausted"/"cease being effective". [This
general supposition is not invalidated even if one perversely takes the
last "it" to refer to "vineyard" rather than to "spell"/"goopher".]

What is it that is seriously wrong with my initial supposition?

-- Doug Wilson

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