The term bullshit celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, yet its origins, even if not absolutely clear and surrounded by urban myths, go far back.
It is a common and totally understandable misconception that bullshit is a combination of “bull” (male bovine) and “shit” (excrement) and that originated to reflect smelly talking.
Yet the term bullshit is actually a contraction of “bull” (lies) and “shit” (excrement) and is therefore related to bollocks (the difference is that bullshit is a lie which is known by the teller to be untrue) and comes to the English language in the mid 13th century via the Old French boul meaning “fraud, deceit,trickery”, which originates from the Latin bulla – seal, sealed document.
The word bullshit, as a term to mean nonsense, started its official life from a 1910th unpublished Thomas Stearns Eliot poem, boldly entitled The Triumph of Bullshit. The poem was initially aimed to address the critics of his poetry who were, among the rest, finding it …”tasteless…impotent and possibly imitated” and were refusing to get him into print. His answer to all critics was the simple : “For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass.” As Eliot emigrated to England and made it to print several years later, he replaced the “critics” with “ladies”, significantly changing the meaning of the poem to now aim at all the women who did not appreciate his attention and merits.
And the first written reference to the word bullshit comes from a 1915th editorial letter from Percy Wyndham Lewis, the famous English painter and author, who reviews Eliot’s The Triumph of Bullshit as “an excellent bits of scholarly ribaldry”.
The term bullshit has also early paved its way into the USA literature and that was in 1928, in the Enormous Room of Edward Estlin Cummings. Cummings was sent to Europe as part of WW1 Abmulance Corps and in his work refered to the First World War as “lotta bullshit”.
It is believed that bullshit was highly used among WW1 troops, been popularized by Australian and New Zelanad troops and by 1920 been part of even the American and British commanding officers’ vocabularly and refering to the ceremonial protocol and the nonsense of all the cleaning and polishing drill).
The modern world highly embraces the word bullshit, and gone are the times when it was a taboo – instead today it is familiar and used in pretty much every part of the globe and seems to have the linguistic powers to fit in any context and label any situation.