Ship High In Transit

I suspect that all new parents go through a phase of fascination with the poop of their new born baby. As evidenced by the next 1,800 odd words I am going through that phase right now. In addition to fascinating, I find Jack’s poop thoroughly disgusting as well as thought-provoking. What is fascinating about Jack’s poop is that it looks like someone is spooning stone ground mustard into his diaper. Do elves with tiny jars of mustard and little, pink Baskin-Robbins’ tasting spoon sneak up to his diaper when we are not looking and frantically spoon in mustard and then scurry away before we know what is going on? Would a diet comprised of nothing but dairy cause my own poop to look like this? What about a diet of nothing but corn and peanuts?

However, the most important question for any concerned parent should be: What if your baby’s poop starts to look like other condiments or sauces? Is the color of French’s Yellow Mustard okay? What about a creamy Hollandaise sauce? What about Heinz EZ Squirt Funky Purple Ketchup? Should I call a doctor then?  Less important but more fun to ask are: Do babies in San Francisco have poop the color of lemon-oregano vinaigrette from Hawthorne Lane? Do babies in France have in their underpants poop the color of Grey Pupon?

Changing a diaper full of mustard-like substances invariably results in comments on the quantity, quality, smell, and perceived force of the expulsion of poop to Jack (who has not the slightest clue) and to the other parent. And, increasingly, changing the diaper is also accompanied by a song. These songs come in two forms: 1) an extemporaneous song extolling the foregoing features of the poop and 2) popular songs with “poo” or “poop” replacing key words.  The current play list of songs in the second category (and the original artist) includes:

“I’ve Got Poo, Babe” by Sonny & Cher

“I Poop Alone” by Green Day

“Block Rockin’ Poops” by Chemical Brothers

“Everybody Poops” by REM

“Testament to Poop in Verse” by New Pornographers

“I’m a Man of Constant Poop” by Soggy Bottom Boys

“Lucy in the Sky with Poop” by The Beatles

“Poopin’ the Suburbs” by Ben Folds

“A Question of Poop” by Depech Mode

“I Took a Poop in Ibiza” – Mike Posner

“First of the Gang to Poop” by Morrissey

“Happiness is a Warm Poop” by The Beatles

“I’m Still Poopin’” by Elton John

“Where Body meets Poop” Death Cab for Cutie

“Born to Poop” by Bruce Springsteen

“Drop it like it’s Poop” by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell

“Bring in da noise, bring in da poop” by Original Broadway Cast

“The Shape of Poo” by Ed Sheeran

“I Could Use a Poop Song” by Maren Morris

“Do I Make You Wanna Poop” by Billy Currington

“Can’t Stop the Poopin'” by Justin Timberlake

“Poop There It Is” by Tag Team (hat tip to KPo)

While not trying to figure out what color my poop would be on an all dairy diet, I have been wondering about the etymology of some of the synonyms for poop. I have discovered some of the words have histories that are as colorful as Jack’s dirty diapers.

Shit/Shite: Urban legend provides the following history for this member of the four-letter word family:

In the 1880s, certain types of manure used to be transported (as everything was back then) by ship. In dry form it weighs a lot less, but once water (at sea) hit it. It not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas.

As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen; methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern. BOOOOM! Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was discovered what was happening.

After that, the bundles of manure where always stamped with the term “S.H.I.T” on them which meant to the sailors to “Ship High In Transit.” In other words, high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane.” (Taken from About.com and also found all over the Internet.)

In reality, reports WordOrigions.com, the word is much older than the 1800s. “Shit is a very old word, with an Old English root. Scítan is the Old English word. It has cognates in most of the other Germanic languages and shares a common Germanic root with modern equivalents like the German scheissen. Scítan, however, doesn’t appear in extant Old English texts and is only assumed to have existed in Old English. The verb to shit dates the Middle English period (c. 1308), and the noun form is from the 16th century. The interjection is of quite recent vintage, not found until the 1920s. The above acronymic origin is believed to have started in 2002 on the Internet.

Crap: Myth holds that the word “crap” comes from Thomas Crapper. Wordorigion.com states that Crapper (1837 – 1910) was a Victorian plumbing engineer and businessman. Crapper is often falsely credited with inventing the Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer, a type of toilet that could effectively flush when the tank was half full. Crapper owned a plumbing supply company and he marketed this device and may have bought the patent rights from the inventor, an Albert Giblin, but he did not invent it. Nor did he lend his name to the word crap.

The word crap, meaning excrement, is from the Old French, via Middle English, crappe, which stood for the grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn. The word originally derives from the Latin crappa. The OED2 traces the use of the word crap, meaning excrement, to at least to 1846, crapping ken for a water closet. Since Crapper was only nine years old in 1846, his name is obviously not the origin of the word. So the Crapper story is a load of crap. Naturally.

I shouldn’t waste time wondering about this kind of stuff, but . . .  If a daughter of the grocery store magnate family the Butts (HEB stores) married a member of the Crapper family, would she keep her maiden name, take her husband’s name, or hyphenate?

Pooh/Poop: Before “pooh” took on its scatological baggage, Shakespeare used this word in Act I, Scene III of Hamlet where Polonius addresses Ophelia with,

“Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl,

Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.

Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?”

But, as etymonline.com reports, “the ‘vocal gesture’ is perhaps ancient. Among the many 19th century theories of the origin of language was the Pooh-pooh theory (1860), which held that language grew from natural expressions of surprise, joy, pain, or grief. The slang reduplicated verb pooh-pooh ‘to dismiss lightly and contemptuously’ is attested from 1827. Pooh as baby-talk for ‘excrement’ is from 1950s.”

Sailors are often accused of having potty mouths so is it any wonder that ships have a poop deck? This would be the case if all sailors had spoke Latin. Sadly, the word “poop deck” has nothing to do with poop. “Poop deck” is derived from the Latin word puppies, which means stern. So the poop deck is the aft stern of a ship. Well that just isn’t as much fun as sailors hanging off the stern of the ship to relieve themselves. Etymologists really have a way of taking the fun out of a word.

To this point I have written over 1,000 words about poop. While seemingly excessive to more polite readers, I think it only shows a healthy curiosity about the world around me. But some people go beyond healthy and march right in, set up camp, and plant their flag in the land of just plain weird – bad weird. Case in point: Dr. Finch from Augusten Burrough’s memoir Running with Scissors. In the chapter called “Toilet Bowl Readings,” Dr. Finch, a psychiatrist and patriarch of an eccentric begins to ascribe predictive powers to his own poop. After one trip to the bathroom, the following exchange occurs between Finch, his wife Agnes, and his daughter Hope:

Dr. Finch: “See? See the way the tip of the coil breaks out of the surface of the water? Holy Father!”

Hope: “Yeah, Dad. I see it. It’s pointing straight up out of the bowl.”

Dr. Finch: “Exactly. Exactly. The tip is pointing up. Do you know what this means?”

Agnes: “Doctor, please. Please calm down.”

Dr. Finch: “Agnes, go get a spatula.”

Agnes: “Doctor, please.”

Dr. Finch: “Agnes, a spatula!”

Hope: “What does it mean?”

Dr. Finch: “It means our financial situation is turning around, that’s what it means. It means things are looking up. The shit is pointing out of the pot and up toward heaven, to God.”

Later, Dr. Finch attempts to examine the poop of each member of the family for possible signs from God.  After examining the product of Hope’s and his wife’s bowels (“which he deemed inferior”) Finch determines that God is speaking only through his own poop and no one else’s. To more thoroughly understand the guidance from above, not only does Dr. Finch save his poop, he keeps an illustrated and written record of each “message” from God.  Makes me long for the days of burning bushes.

Remarkably, poop can not only provide messages from God and predict the future, but it can also act as the foundation of a podcast. Chris Rockwell is a guy that records a five to ten minute podcast focusing on art, music, television, film, religion, and news recorded while he is in bathroom taking a dump. It is called the Daily Dump. (For those of you so inclined you can get the Daily Dump at www.apeboymonkeygirl.com. Update: When written in 2005, they were there, but not anymore. Sad face.) Rockwell’s commentary on art, music and film are often punctuated with grunts, groans, moans, and asides about the previous night’s dinner. While the junior-high boy in me finds this idea hysterical, what I find most amazing of all is that his wife – and in-laws! – go along with this. Rockwell’s wife can often be heard during the broadcasts. One of the funniest ones I’ve listened to included a question and answer session between Rockwell and his father-in-law about his father-in-law’s use of corn cobs as toilette paper while growing up on a farm without indoor plumbing. (Don’t worry, S. K. I will never, ever, ask you any questions of that sort. We can limit these types of conversations to what we all affectionately call “Jack’s Symphonies” coming from his diaper.) The broadcasts generally end with a definitive flush of the toilet.

Oh, scheissen! Jack has just had his second daily download in ten minutes.

Hey, wait a minute!  How did that peanut get in there? What can this mean?! That I will find out that I am a distant relative of Jimmy Carter? That I will be visited by a pince-nez-wearing, cane-wielding, dancing peanut who will tell me that my fortunes are looking up? Somebody bring me a spatula!

sptatula

Why thank you, Google Images.

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