A matrix of -shits

Recently, my father and I were enjoying a pleasant train ride through the Irish countryside to visit some family friends. Our conversation, as it does, went to –shit. Chickenshit, specifically.

I don’t recall what occasioned our chuckling about chickenshit, not that one ever needs a reason, but soon our chatter turned to other piles of -shit, e.g., bullshit, batshit, jackshit, the shit-list goes on. This put to mind, of course, Strong Language, where we’ve been well covered in –shit words over the years, memorably Kory Stamper on dipshit, Mark Peters on frogshit, and Ben Zimmer on ripshit.

I was curious about how English’s many species of –shits, whether they be formed by compounding or affixation, relate to one another. So, naturally, I made a matrixa matrix of –shitscomparing them by kind and degree.

Matrix of -Shits.jpg

Print it and out add your own. Keep a copy handy on your smartphone in case you want to be sure you’re using the right type of -shit. Zoom in on this vector version if you want to calculate the steep slope from batshit to apeshit. And be sure to revisit the many other great Strong Language pieces on, er, of, shit.

27 thoughts on “A matrix of -shits

  1. neminem42 November 7, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    I’ve never seen “jackshit” used to mean “stupid”, or as a single word like that…? I’ve absolutely seen plenty of “jack shit”, as the extra-emphatic form of “crap-all”, as in “literally nothing”…

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:08 am

      I’m interpreting this one liberally, riffing on the expression, ‘You don’t know jackshit’, but you’re point is well taken.


  2. Keith November 7, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    I’m usually a great fan of XKCD graphs, but in this case I think it fails. Usually, there are axes like stupidity along X (stupid on the left-hand side, intelligent on the right-hand side) and boldness along Y (timorous at the bottom, exuberantly brave at the top).

    Without any kind of axis, the placement of individual species of shit make no sense within a quandrant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Hawkins November 7, 2017 / 9:36 pm

      Yeah, I’m completely lost on the layout of this graph. =(


    • Richard A. November 11, 2017 / 3:39 am

      The way I see it, the further away from the center, the stronger the association with the quadrant. So, Apeshit crazy is *waaaaaay* crazier than bugshit, for example. That’s how I read it, anyway!


  3. John Cowan November 7, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    Let’s not forget whaleshit, as in “feeling lower than whale shit (and that’s at the bottom of the ocean)”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Y November 7, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      A headline yesterday: Anthony Bourdain Slams Weinstein Conspirators: “You Are Beneath Whale S–t”. The actual tweet reads “I hope people throw feces at you in the street. You are beneath whale shit”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:08 am

        This definitely deserves incorporation into the extreme end of the ‘cowardly/worthless’ quadrant!


  4. Ken Fasano November 7, 2017 / 5:09 pm

    Where would you put orange shitgibbon?


    • bratschegirl November 11, 2017 / 8:09 am

      I remember it as “tiny-fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon.” But either way, an important addition to the chart!


      • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:10 am

        ‘Shitgibbon’ is definitely an important member of the broader ‘shit’ family, but for this matrix, I’m specifically looking at words that use ‘shit’ as an affix or as the head part (latter) of the compound.


  5. rcreed November 7, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    I’ve heard Bostonians use “bullshit” to mean “very angry,” as in “When I discovered my car had been towed, I was bullshit.” Has anyone else encountered this use?

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:13 am

      Oh this is very interesting and new to me! Commenter Melanie down below seconds your observation and adds ‘ripshit’ to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa H. November 7, 2017 / 7:27 pm

    “Bugshit” sounds a little strange to me; I would more likely say “bugfuck”.


    • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:12 am

      It definitely strikes me as a less common member of the -shit family.


  7. Soph November 7, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    This is no fucking matrix. It’s a -shits cheatsheet.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. R. Brite November 8, 2017 / 7:02 am

    Like Neminem42, I have only seen “jack shit” (2 words) used to mean “fuck all” or “diddly squat” (i.e. absolutely nothing). Whale shit is new to me, and so is the Bostonian use of bullshit. By the way, it’s a shame to see “be sure your using the right type” in such an eminent language blog.


  9. Melanie November 8, 2017 / 7:37 am

    Bullshit and ripshit are signature degrees of anger for us New Englanders. Also, to us, ripshit NEVER means crazy. It ALWAYS means angry. Very, very, VERY angry.


    • John Kelly November 11, 2017 / 9:14 am

      See commenter RCREED above. Thanks for apprising me of this–I (from Ohio) have never heard bullshit used in that way!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Melanie November 12, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      To further clarify, New Englanders use ‘bullshit’ in many ways.

      1- the classic sense (lies/inaccuracies “your claim is without merit”),

      2- to indicate absurdity (“that’s ridiculous”),

      3- to indicate angry objection (“I’m protesting/refuting this situation because it is unacceptable”),


      4- to indicate utter exasperation and anger to a marked, but not necessarily the highest, degree (“I am fuming mad about this”)

      By contrast, ‘ripshit’ indicates the highest degree of anger, the kind likely to incite revenge (“when she found out her husband of 20 years had been cheating on her since the wedding she was ripshit, and hired a lawyer who will show no mercy”)

      OR can be used facetiously for sake of irony/to exaggerate a point (“if my roommate keeps drinking my beer I’ll be ripshit. I’m gonna kill that —— guy”).

      We enjoy our shit around here.


  10. Jean Montgomerie November 11, 2017 / 11:21 am

    Thank you, John Kelly, for sorting this shit out!


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