bullshit?

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bullshit?

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:03 pm

I'm trying to do some research into the origins of the word "bullshit". So far have come up with quite conflicting dates - somewhere between 1600 and 1915! Anyone has any info I'd be most grateful.
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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:17 pm

Dear anonymous, Evidently you didn’t read the small print as you entered your question, which read “please give your name and town/country - if you ‘exist’ other club members are more likely to reply.” – I’m unlikely to if you don’t. However, in this instance you have lucked out (or maybe not, after reading what I have to say), since to my surprise, I found that the etymology of this expression had not before been discussed (under this title) in these hallowed halls – although the distinction between the consistency of the literal ‘bullshit vs. horseshit’ (# 3099) had. For further information, also see ‘shooting the bull’ (# 2854).

Most dictionaries say that ‘bullshit, utter nonsense, a flagrant lie, flattery, insincere talk is an American expletive first recorded in 1914, but many etymologist feel that it was in use at least a century before that. The ubiquitous 1914 date appeared in the supplement to the 1972 OED (repeated by almost all dictionaries) – a pretty late appearance for such a widely used (by then) term. A quotation from a 1914 letter James Joyce wrote to Ezra Pound read: “I enclose a prize example of bullshit.” A 1915 letter of Joyce to Pound read: “ [T.S.] Eliot has sent me Bullshit & the Ballad for Big Louise. They are excellent bits of scholarly ribaldry.”

The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, however, gives an 1866 quote which implies that the expression was known in both its literal and nonliteral senses by that date: “1866 in W. H. Jackson ‘Diaries’ 51, ‘It would amuse and...amaze an Eastern person to hear our first cry when we corall. It is for fuel and thus spoken—‘Bull sh-t, Bull sh-t’ in stentorian tones. . . . .”

A question to which there seems to be no clear answer is which came first the ‘bull’ or the ‘bullshit’? Many slang dictionaries (e.g. Cassell’s) say that ‘bull’ is a euphemism for ‘bullshit’ that arose in the early 20th century. Others think that it is possible that the ‘bull’ in ‘bullshit’ is much older, may have had nothing to do with the animal, and that the conjunction of the animal’s name, its excrescence, and the sense of nonsense is purely fortuitous. Since the early 17th century ‘bull’ has meant a ludicrous or self-contradictory statement or jest, now commonly used in the expression ‘Irish bull’ (e.g. ‘Gentlemen, it appears to be unanimous that we cannot agree’). This early ‘bull’ may derive from the Middle English noun ‘bul,’ falsehood, and the 15th century to 17th century verb ‘bull,’ to mock, cheat.

In any case, even though the words ‘bull,’ the animal or not, and ‘shit’ – well we know what that is –have been around for many centuries it is not till relatively recently that they have gotten together in print. So, a safe guess would seem to be mid-19th century for print, early 19th century for the spoken word.
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Ken G – October 29, 2003







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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:32 pm

Point of pedantry: You mean excreta, not excrescence.
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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:46 pm

You’re right on the ‘excreta.’ However, according to the OED ‘excrescence’ and ‘excrement’ are synonyms – so it was a natural mistake (oh yeah!). Only problem is, this particular usage of excrement meaning something that grows out or forth, especially hair, nails, or feathers is no longer in use – good try but no cigar! (>:). The several meanings of ‘excrescence’ include 1a) An abnormal or diseased outgrowth on a person, animal or plant; a disfiguring or unsightly addition (literally & figuratively) 1b) Something that grows out naturally; an appendage. 2) Exuberance; an exuberant outburst. Formerly overblown pride, swagger.

Truth be known I actually did a double screwup and by happenstance stumbled on what almost made it look like I might have known what I was doing. I believed that ‘excresence’ was a word – it’s not. I misspelled it in my posting as ‘excrescence,’ which just did happen to be a real word and so my spell checker accepted it. By some miraculous twist of fate, that word actually meant ‘excrement,’ but in an obsolete sense – and so the ugly truth is I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing! (<:)
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Ken G – October 29, 2003

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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 6:01 pm

I don't know about anomyously, but bullshit is obviously a term used in a shoot-out at darts. When I used to play at College, "boardshit" and "opponentshit" would have been more useful terms.
Edwin Ashworth Oldham England
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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 6:15 pm

I should also have congratulated Ken on his brave confession _ having strayed into obsoleta. EA
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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 6:29 pm

Whats everyone take on this possible explanation?

The famous "Cedars of Lebanon" mentioned in both the Bible and the Qu'ran came from a province called "Bullita." (From where we derive the word "bullet," which were originally made of wood.) When Thomas Jefferson was building his home, Monticello, he built the first paneling mill in North America, staffed by slave labor, to supply cedar paneling which was in huge demand at the time for it's qualities as an insect-proof material for closets. The paneling mill soon made him the richest man in the colonies. As President, he gave himself the contracts for government buildings in all 13 states. Paneling from his mill can still be found in buildings and homes throughout the east coast. Jefferson's cedar paneling was branded with his insignia and the words "Bulltish cedar" as a sign of authenticity. Jefferson also invented the mechanism that branded the paneling, an iron wheel framework with interchangeable cogs containing letters and numbers that moved across the panels, heated from within by a small dung fire. Sometimes the illiterate slaves would set the cogs in the wrong order, as happened when George Washington obtained delivery of 14 tons of cedar paneling for his home at Mount Vernon. The paneling had all been marked "Bullshit cedar" and was obviously of such questionable quality that Washington returned it immediately, and was a bitter foe of Jefferson from then on. Throughout the rest of his life Washington referred to ideas or goods of inferior quality as "Bullshit," and it rapidly came to common useage. My point is, not many people know that the source of the word "bullshit" has nothing to do with bovine effluvia, but actually comes from trees. Now you'll know that when people say "Bullshit grows on trees" They're not far off. Think about it.

http://www.popeye-x.com/antippx6/0000006c.htm

Jolly, Chicago, IL
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bullshit?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Oct 08, 2004 6:44 pm

Did any wood come from Tripoli?
EA
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