I am always curious about language and how certain terms originate and the journey that those terms usually take before coming to mean what they do. I recently heard the term, bats**t crazy [see note below] and it occurred to me, why bats? What is it about their guano that we associate with being not just a little crazy or temporarily insane, but full-blown nuts? As one might expect, there is no precise answer to this question, but it seems to be related to the phrase bats in the belfry which most definitely means a person is off his or her rocker. Englishstackexchange.com presents an excellent discussion on bats**t crazy which may have developed its current definition as recently as 2001. Or it may have originated with the Vikings. One contributor suggests that it may have something to do with the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum which is present in bat droppings and produces a “psychotic effect” in anyone infected. I urge you to read this discussion if, like me, you are etymologically curious.
Of course—although perhaps I should say of coarse—our society has this on-going linguistic relationship with the droppings of various barnyard animals. For example, bulls**t generally means that something is wrong or incorrect as in “Professional wrestling is totally unscripted!” to which one would reply “Bulls**t!” (On a historical note, the term did not come into widespread use until World War I.)
Horses**t, is not quite synonymous with its bovine equivalent, as it usually refers to something stupid or annoying, but not necessarily incorrect. For example, you are barely moving through a construction zone on the highway only to find at the end of six tortured and tedious miles that no one is constructing anything; they just left the signs and the cones out overnight. That’s horses**t.
The piles of poop produced by horses are just too large to reference when describing the smaller annoyances in life to which we apply the term, chickens**t. For example, you go to your doctor, the same one you’ve been seeing for 25 years, and you’ve had the same insurance for 25 years, but every year for 25 years, that nasty woman who sits behind the glass and pretends that she’s invisible, asks you to fill out yet another insurance form even though none of the information from the last 25 forms has ever changed. That’s chickens**t.
What I really don’t understand is why pigs**t isn’t a commonly used expression. Maybe because it actually smells so foul that it would send shudders through even the most hardened utterer of profanity.
Language is dynamic and almost as old as human kind. Of course, s**t is as old as human kind and was probably the subject of the first joke, but that’s another essay altogether.
Note: My father, who was the son of a Methodist minister never cursed in his life. (He never smoked nor drank, either; how he survived three years in the United States Navy without picking up at least one of those habits is a bit mind boggling.) In deference to Dad’s memory, and to others who may be offended, I have refrained from spelling out the word in question. After all, everyone can recognize the word from its shadow. You don’t have to step in it to know that it stinks. So to speak.
Does the current level of play of the Baltimore Orioles have you thinking along this excremental line of thought?
All those goose eggs are certainly making ME that way!
This is quite hysterical, Austin. I’ve never paid much attention to this subject. I’ll have to ponder it a bit to come up with some answers.
You haven’t paid attention, Bonnie, because you travel in more erudite circles than I do!
Loved this – although the story is full of %$#& horse, bat and otherwise. I once did a show on the bat flights from Carlsbad Caverns. Learned more about bat%$@#& than I ever wanted to know!
I’m glad you said it was the story and not me, Shirley!!
Nice one, Austin, though, even in my years of working in medicine, and actually working with lots of histoplasmosis patients, I never knew any of them to be psychotic…at least, I never got entertained the thought that it was that disease that caused it!
Thanks for the fun!
You’re welcome, George! Glad you enjoyed it.