as a continuation of my recent Freud story,
here's an analysis of the anal stage of life.
So many of us are stuck up our own butts.
That makes this discussion of the toilet, the
ceramic part, such an "eye" opening event.
Zizek treats us to some Slovenian scatology.
Drop that sh*t on a shelf and look at it!
BTW, I've got a bit of toilet talk myself. Did you
know the crapper is named after its inventor,
this is followed by a new work in the German
dictionary. The hallowed "shitstorm" has been
honoured with a place in the Deutsches good book.
scheise, I don't speak Slovenian
A shitstorm in a dictionary
Germans are not obsessed with faecal matters, just very reluctant to use sexual metaphors in a negative way
.co.uk, Wednesday 3 July 2013 17.39 BST
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The announcement that the word "shitstorm" has entered the most commonly used German dictionary, the Duden, after being used by Angela Merkel has triggered the usual wave of cliches: that Germans are darkly obsessed with pooping, farting and bottoms, psychologically stuck at the anally retentive stage.
As the great German linguistics blogger Anatol Stefanowitsch has shown in this excellent blogpost, the "Germans love shit" meme can largely be dated back to a 1984 book by the US anthropologist Alan Dundes, called Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder. Dundes claimed that German folklore was riddled with an "inordinate" amount of shit-related riddles and proverbs, and that Scheiß (or Scheiße) was "the most often used word in Germany today". But, as Stefanowitsch impressively shows, it's just as easy to think of shit-metaphors that litter English speech, a "shitstorm" being what can happen when the shit hits the fan, someone serves you a shit sandwich, talks bullshit or beats the shit out of someone, or when things generally end up up shit creek without a paddle.
Arguably, the tendency to psychoanalyse the German attitude to bodily functions goes back even further. In 1973, the American novelist Erica Jong's novel Fear of Flying claimed that the architecture of German toilets revealed something sinister about the psyche of those who sat on them:
"Go into any German toilet and you'll find a fixture unlike any other in the world. It has a cute little porcelain platform for the shit to fall on so you can inspect it before it whirls off into the watery abyss, and there is, in fact, no water in the toilet until you flush it. As a result, German toilets have the strongest shit smell of any toilets anywhere ... German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything."
Slavoj Zizek has elaborated this into a wider critique of German metaphysics.
Pathologising linguistic tics can lead to precisely the kind of ethnographic generalisations the Nazis practised to excess, but – and here I would disagree with Stefanowitsch – that doesn't mean that the predominance of poo-talk is a complete myth. Linguist Hans-Martin Gauger spent several years comparing swearwords in 15 different languages and concluded not so much that Germans were inordinately obsessed with faecal matters, but that there were inordinately reluctant to use sexual metaphors to express negative sentiments.
Look up "motherfucker" in the Langenscheidt dictionary and you get Arschloch (arsehole). In German you don't say: "Verfick dich (fuck off)," but "Verpiss dich (piss off)"; you don't feel "fucked off" but "beschissen (shat upon)". Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was happy to use the filthy German equivalent of "kiss my arse" in his 1773 play Götz von Berlichingen: "Er aber, sag's ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!" Only the Swedes share a similar reluctance to use sexual metaphors as swearwords.
Gauger admits that, with the globalisation of German, that reluctance is starting to wear off, but he insists that Germans should, at any rate, not be ashamed of their linguistic habit, but proud of it. "I find it much more troubling when we use sexual organs as terms of abuse." In fact, even shit can sometimes be used to connote positive feelings in German. When I was a little baby, my grandmother used to call me "mien lütten Schietbüddel", "my little shit bag" – "Scheißerle" is a similarly affectionate Swabian term for a toddler.
Erich Maria Remarque's great first world war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, recalls communal military latrines as one of the few positive experiences of the conflict:
"The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavour to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation. It is impossible to express oneself in any other way so clearly and pithily."
The question remains why the German language would, in any case, need to import an English word such as "shitstorm" if it already suffered from such a surfeit of faeces-related metaphors. The answer may be that "shitstorm" in German actually means something very different from what it means in English. The Duden defines it as "a storm of outrage on the internet" – highlighting how social media have increased the speed and reduced the length of our daily outrage. The Urban Dictionary, on the other hand, defines it as a disaster in a much broader sense (and Collins doesn't recognise the term at all).
Personally, I wouldn't have put "shitstorm" in the dictionary, but its much lovelier antonym, the "candystorm" – an example of "globish" if ever there was one. Only yesterday, the German Green MEP Volker Beck was calling for a "candystorm for Edward Snowden". No shit.