The word “Shit” Meant “Ship High In Transit”-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

According the the eRumor, in the 16th and 17th centuries, dry manure that was transported aboard ships sometimes got wet, fermented, and released methane gas, which is explosive.  Many ships were destroyed before the source of the gas was recognized and after that manure was marked “S.H.I.T,” which meant “ship high in transit.  In other words, away from the bottom of the ship and the potential of coming into contact with water.

The Truth:

This email is a hoax.

There is no historical evidence that “Ship High in Transit” aboard ships was the origin for the word “shit.” 

The eRumor has circulated on the Internet since about 2000.

This issue is specifically addressed by the folks at the Online Etymology Dictionary who say that “Despite what you read in an e-mail, ‘shit’ is not an acronym.”

The Merriiam-Webster dictionary dates the word back to 1526 and says that is is from the Old English scite and akin to a related word –scitan and means to defecate. 

A writer for the Online Etymology Dictionary points out that the use acronyms didn’t develop until the 20th century so a word that is hundreds of years old would not have originated as an acronym.

Posted 07/20/08

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:


An interesting fact

Manure: In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship and it was also before commercial fertilizer’s invention, so large shipments of manure were common.

It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen.

Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term ‘Ship High In Transit’ on them, which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane.

Thus evolved the term ‘ S.H.I.T ‘ , (Ship High In Transit) which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.

You probably did not know the true history of this word.

Neither did I.

I had always thought it was a golf term.