Thursday, 18 September 2008

A word from not-so-crude origins...

"This looks like an interesting linguistic tidbit!" a helpful voice called from out of the kitchen as I sat, knitting my brow over the reams of complicated steps involved in adding a third column to my blog layout. Tired of toying with html, I sauntered over to the voice's owner in response to its call.

"What mum," I said, pausing to skim the first paragraph. "Is it one of those ridiculous forwards again?"

"Yes, but it's amusing all the same."

It went something like this:
  1. Dry manure used to be transported by ship in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  2. The sea water would wet the manure, causing a build up of methane gas,and subsequent explosions whenever sailors would go downstairs with an oil lantern.
  3. Sailors were then on ordered to "Ship [manure] High in Transit" to avoid further mishaps.
  4. And from that, dear readers, we got the acronym...well, you know.
Are your fraud sirens wailing yet? Good. Because this forward is a complete falsehood fabricated by people claiming to be experts in the field of etymology.

The expletive sh*t is actually an ancient word dating back to Old English -- that's 1000 years ago, people -- and is said to share a common origin with words like "science, schedule and shield" (Netlore Archive). Not quite as visually evocative as exploding manure, to be sure, but the truth is never as exciting, is it?

Ah well. I can say that the story did succeed in one thing. It put a smile on this html-fatigued blogger's face.


amethyst said...

lol! I really laughed at that one. Do you think the phrase "poop deck" might have a similar story? =D

heather-in-italia said...

I don't know, but I would love to look into it! Haha. Consider it my next quest... :D

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