Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: The word "shit" comes from an acronym for "Ship High in Transit."
Origins: This sorry piece of codswallop about exploding ships appears to have begun its Internet life in February 2002. Its cousin, the "bad smelling steamship fuel" tale (second example quoted above) began its online life as an April 1999 post to the USENET discussion list rec.humor. Akin to the faux etymology of the word
We could launch into a long, involved discussion of ancient shipping practices, methane production and properties, and Internet leg-pulls, but we'll spare you all that, as the fanciful stories listed can easily be debunked as the product of someone's wild imaginings through linguistic means.
The word shit entered the modern English language via having been derived from the Old English nouns scite and
Scite can trace its roots back to the proto-Germanic root skit-, which brought us the German scheisse, Dutch schijten, Swedish skita, and Danish skide. Skit- comes from the Indo-European root skheid- for "split, divide, separate," thus shit is distantly related to schism and schist. (If you're wondering what a verb root for the act of separating one thing from another would have to do with excrement, it was in the sense of the body's eliminating its waste — "separating" from it, so to speak. Sort of the opposite of today's "getting one's shit together.")
Barbara "shit disturber" Mikkelson
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