Shit is such a sturdy, versatile, necessary word. And sometimes it’s the ONLY word that can accurately describe a situation while also providing crucial emotional and/or physical relief.
- Stubbing your toe.
- Locking yourself out of your house in only a towel and having to retrieve your spare key from the teenage boy next door.
- Having your cellphone die (and forgetting the car charger) on the way from Fort Worth to Dallas to pick up your kids from their first day at a new daycare center and getting stuck in horrible traffic with no way to call the daycare center or your husband – who’s away in trial anyway – to tell them you are going to be very late and they should please, please wait for you and charge you whatever they need to and not stick your two- and four-year-olds out on the curb in the cold, dark, rainy night.
- Visiting your dear, upbeat friend with multiple sclerosis and only being able to provide ziti casserole, Italian bread, Caesar salad and Toll House chocolate chip cookies when all she really wants is to walk, drive, care for her family, take a shower by herself, and not have to take a gazillion pills with unpleasant side effects.
- Watching your mother die. Then watching your father die.
- Getting cancer.
Try the alternatives: Darn! Snap! Shoot! fiddlesticks! See? None of those words even come close to the sweet satisfaction of saying shit. The only thing better than saying shit in situations like the ones above? Saying it multiple times. Shitshitshitshitshitshit.
You know why else I love the word shit? It’s usefulness in poetry. We have a tradition in my family where we write poems to accompany gifts on Christmas morning. Shit rhymes with a LOT. Of course there are the one-syllable standards: pit, knit, wit, sit, skit, lit, bit, quit. But then there are the multi-syllabic opportunities: sandpit, legit, recommit, benefit, lickety-split, nitwit. And those are just a few. Shit is a poetry gem.
Here’s a little poem I wrote to accompany the spinning hummingbird yard ornament I gave my aunt in Boston one year.
Now that winter’s here to stay
We know you want to run away.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is bad
In fact, it can make you stark raving mad!
Your new sun lamp may help out a bit
But the snow and ice still make you think, “Shit!”
The worst part of winter isn’t just the weather
It’s that you miss your small friends of the feather.
Your hummingbirds fly south for the winter
And you feel like you’ve gotten a really big splinter
Well, cheer up because we got you a gift.
We hope it will give your mood a big lift
Hang this in your yard and watch as it spins.
Sip your coffee and break into grins.
The feeling should last right into spring
Until the real hummingbirds start to sing.
Obviously, I’m no gifted poet. But a well-placed shit can elevate even the most prosaic of poetry. And don’t get me started on the fantastic rhyming possibilities of the word shitty.
Pretty, witty, ditty, kitty, pity, committee, Salt Lake City, nitty-gritty, itty-bitty…