On my walk last evening I passed a group of teenagers (Is “group” the right term? Or is it “gaggle” or “pride” or “passel”, maybe its “annoyance”? Yeah, that’s it). I passed an annoyance of teenagers and one was breathlessly telling a story that was obviously utter bullshit.
“The car was going 100 miles an hour and suddenly he opens the door and jumps out, I shit you not.”
The line that got my attention was “I shit you not.” Where exactly did we come up with this phrase as English speakers? We use the word “shit” in many different ways as brilliantly chronicled by George Carlin on his FM/AM album in 1972.
But why do we say things like “Are you shitting me?” as a way of questioning someone’s truthfulness? If you think about it logically, “shitting” someone sounds like you’re giving them an enema. Now, you can pay $9.99 a month on a plethora of websites and watch all of those videos you want and none of it explains why we use it in the context we do.
Back to “I shit you not.” This version is the most interesting because it sounds so Shakespearean:
King Henry: Dost thou shittest me?
Romeo: By the light of a Janus moon I believe you shitteth me
Juliet: No my love, I swear on the beating of my full heart I shit thee not.
So basically we have a phrase, “I shit you not”, that sounds like a denial of an old English fecal extracting colon cleanse that we as modern English speakers are using to mean “I am not lying to you or exaggerating the circumstances”.
How about some alternatives:
“I am not trying to de-turd you.”
“I’m not going anywhere near your ass with a rubber tube.”
“My veracity can be proven by your lack of anal leakage.”
Uh, yeah, I guess we’d better stick with “I shit you not” no matter where we came up with it.