Saturday, April 4, 2009

Shit as a Pronoun



Last night I caught myself falling into the usage all around me. I had washed a load of clothes and dumped the unfolded load of laundry on my bunk. Someone asked if I was going to chow. I said, "I have get my shit off the bed first." A millisecond later I realized that someone who was thinking literally would think what I really needed to do was wash the whole bed.

In my world, shit is a substitute for every other noun. It also has other linguistic functions, but in the Army they are by far secondary to shit serving as a universal pronoun. Shit can actually refer to feces as when someone leaves a room to "take a shit." That is an interesting linguistic twist in itself. What the speaker will be doing in fact (one hopes) is leaving the feces behind, but since effort is involved, taking is the verb--the same usage as taking a picture. Another twist is in the use of the s-word as an exclamation. "Shit!" is generally negative, but "No Shit!" is positive. If I tell Private Snuffy he has guard duty he will exclaim, "Shit!" to express his dismay. If later on I tell him the Private Duffy has duty in his place, Snuffy will say, "No Shit!" and be happy.

But the main use is a pronoun, usually in the objective case. Looking at someone else's food, I might say, "I don't like that shit." If my tools were in disarray I would say, "I need to get my shit together." If someone else were advising me to put my tools in order they might use the same phrase or the odder form, "Get your shit straight!" I go right for the literal and imagine someone using a straight edge for a very difficult task.

By now you must have had "enough of this shit" so I will "stop this shit" right now. Except to add that the most common modifier of the word of the day is Bull, often said as if it had three syllables.

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