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Crap

Crap probably has no place in formal contexts, but everywhere else it is extremely useful. Its oldest definition—originating in the 15th century—is the husk of grain, and the word has long been used to refer to straw, dirt, dregs, and filth. For several centuries the word also applied to various weeds that grow among corn. All of these senses are now obsolete, though, and crap as we know it didn’t come about until the middle 19th century when the first instances of crap as a synonym of defecate appeared.

By the early 1900s, these definitions of crap were well established: (1) to defecate, (2) excrement, (3) the act of defecation, (4) rubbish, and (5) nonsense. And of course, there was the noun craps, denoting the game of dice and having origins in the British game of hazard. Here are a few example of these 19th-century-originating senses in action:

Reagan is sure to let down his guard long enough to reappear, use his powers to freeze time, and try to take a crap in Steve’s mouth. [AV Club]

FTP is four years old, meaning if it were human it would have stopped crapping in its diaper. [posted on Huffington Post]

The Jobs program is so filled with ludicrous anti-business crap that it doesn’t even warrant discussion. [Forbes]

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More recent arrivals are the phrasal verbs crap out, meaning (1) to fail to keep a commitment and (2) to fail to function, and crap around, meaning to behave foolishly. There’s also the adjective crap (shortened from crappy), meaning inferior or contemptible; crap to mean anything (as in I can’t see crap out there); crap to mean backtalk (as in don’t give me any of your crap); crap as an interjection expressing displeasure or anger; and the idioms go to crap and turn to crap, meaning fail utterly or go very badly. Here are a few examples of these 20th-century craps put to use:

I’ve got a 2002 Ford Focus, which runs well, although the air conditioner has crapped out. [Slate]

It’s a perfectly crap British summer morning: grey, moody, no-nonsense gritty TV weather. [Guardian]

The girl next to me, also having just picked up this race for fun, was like, “Oh crap, what did I get myself into?!” [Oregon Live]

Abe is a bank customer whose day turns to crap when he becomes a hostage in a botched robbery of the bank. [Boomtron]

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