Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical ShitS

An intrepid reader writes, "How do you decide which is the better term 'apeshit' or 'batshit'? It must be a tough call." With all the different types of shit out there, choosing the correct shit can be a mess.

By prefacing "shit" with the species of animal whence it came, the speaker gestures to the reason this particular shit is shitty. The animal transfers its negative traits to its shit. With this in mind, let us move to the case studies.

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

APE SHIT Due to apes' propensity for poo-flinging tantrums, this shit characterizes uncouth hotheadedness, red-faced rages, tempestuous tantrum-throwing, and high histrionics. When Conde Nast cut Anna Wintour's clothing allowance, the Vogue editor went ape shit, bludgeoning Si Newhouse with her Blackberry and rending editorial assistants limb from limb. [pic]

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

BAT SHIT Long associated with spooky shut-ins and haunted houses, bats represent the eccentrically crazy people who live in bat-infested homes and stumble about in leathery darkness, freaking everyone out, just like bats. (cf. batty) Thus, the shit of a bat characterizes madcap lunacy. At first I thought Sarah Palin was a breath of fresh air. Then I realized she's a bat shit insane demagogue. [pic]

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

BULLSHIT The headstrong bull is confident—often overconfident. (cf. bullish) His shit characterizes statements or ideas presented as stronger or truer than they really are. The rumor about Beyonce being pregnant is bullshit. [pic:Getty]

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

Chicken Shit Describes the lowest form of cowardice, produced when the cowardly chicken is scared shitless, thereby vacating its bowels and producing chicken shit. After months of praying she would notice him, the nerd finally talked to his crush, but was too chicken shit to get her phone number. [pic]

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

DOG SHIT The only thing worse than bubble gum to step on in the street; the great equalizer of feet. Lady Gaga stepped in dog shit in her million-dollar moon boots. [pic]

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

HOT SHIT I suspect this phrase is a perversion of hot shot, because there is no other reason for hot fecal matter to indicate something desirable. Justin Bieber thinks he's hot shit, but really he's just cold diarrhea.

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

NO SHIT Exclamation indicating obviousness. (cf. duh, no duh) No shit, this post is gratuitous and vulgar.

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

SHIT, THE Inserting the definite article transforms "shit" from pejorative to superlative, and indicates an apex, triumph, or superior quality. I love autoantonyms; they're the shit.

SHITS, THE An upset digestive state that sends the afflicted to the bathroom with great frequency. Sushi gives him the shits.

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

SHIT-EATING GRIN As one afflicted with a far too literal imagination, this is a rhetorical shit I cannot stand. It refers to the smile someone has when they know they've done something really bad, but they really like the bad thing they did, and are reveling in the filth of it all. Discovering a new set of panty-free Lindsay Lohan upskirt pics, Perez Hilton could not keep the shit-eating grin off his face.

Bullshit, Bat Shit, Ape Shit: A Taxonomy of Rhetorical Shit

SHITSTORM A series of terrible events that combine and escalate into an epic, complicated tumult. Like if you walked outdoors, and shit was storming through the air. It would be a crisis. Then he forwarded the naked pictures to me, and I forwarded them to his ex, and the whole thing turned into a shitstorm.


ADDENDUM: Here is the email that inspired this post. It takes issue with a characterization of tea partiers as "going apeshit."

From: Peter Scheffler <[redacted]@[redacted].com>
Subject: apeshit
To: maureen@gawker.com

How do you decide which is the better term "apeshit" or "batshit"? It must be a tough call. You guys really have a way with the language. It's amazing your career path hasn't taken you beyond this two bit blog?

Best Regards
Pete Scheffler

Thus, let us coin the Peter Scheffler Shit, characterizing rhetorical ejaculations that result in the opposite of the intended effect. He thought his email would shame them into silence, but instead his Peter Scheffler Shit inspired another shitty post.

Miss your favorite rhetorical shit? Add your usage in the comments.