"Ode to Those Four-Letter Words"
It's everywhere. You'll find it in the most exotic places in your pants, alongside a shave, shower, shine, and shampoo, on a stick, and in a handbag (all 20thC). Most people are full of it; those who aren't simply act shitty. We start the day telling others, "I feel like shit," eliciting the remark, "You do seem flushed." Dispassionate observers reinforce the sentiment, noting how you look like shit or like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag (both 20thC). We pretend not to notice the resemblance.
Down and Dirty
We have shit for brains, and allow shit-heads with bogus credentials (BS-"bullshit," MS-"more shit," and PhD-"piled high and deep") to run our institutions. Such is society's fate. Individually, some shit in high cotton, enjoying prosperity, living high off the hog, "high cotton" being equated with wealth. The rest of the population, however, is simply shit out of luck.
But we're anything but grateful for it. We're repelled by its presence. We approach it cautiously, deal with it reluctantly, and treat it likewellshit. We kick, beat, and stomp the shit out of people. We trivialize it as diddlyshit, which explains why it has traditionally been number two (19thC). As the Penguin (Danny De Vito) in Batman Returns (1992) reminisced about his parents who threw him in the sewers as a child, "I was their number one son, and they treated me like number two."
Shit or shite has been around a long time-since the fourteenth century as a verb and the sixteenth century as a noun. Between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, it was widely used and considered neither dirty nor disreputable. Around 1795, it disappeared from the lexicon, not to surface again for another hundred years.
Though people are in touch with it daily, they're pretty ignorant on the subject. They don't know frog shit from pea soup or shit from Shinola (both 20thC), leaving our luncheons in a state of confusion and our shoes with a terrible luster. Others don't know sheepshit from cherry seed, and can't tell owl-shit from putty without a map (both early 20thC, rural U.S.). Clearly, they need to brush up on their scatology, the study of same, from the Greek skatos, shit. If you don't know shit, it's time you learned.