How vulgar is crap?

fenixpollo

moderator
American English
How vulgar is the word "crap", and why do you think so?

I found several previous threads -- all in the Spanish forum -- in which people opined about whether they think "crap" is a vulgar word: crap, cut the crap, take a crap. In fact, the question of crap's vulgarity comes up in many of the threads about "crap" (Although not in any of the French threads. Coincidence?)

The register or connotation that this word has is a very important issue when you're looking for a translation into a second language, especially when crap is used in a context in which it means something other than "excrement".

In order to answer this question, I suppose we might get into several issues, such as generational differences, regional variations, the definition of "vulgar", and possibly other matters that might seem off topic, ;) yet are part of the discussion.

This thread is for anyone that has an opinion -- natives and non-natives alike.
 
  • petereid

    Senior Member
    english
    Crap in its basic form means "shit"
    I am going for a crap. The dog's crapped on the lawn.
    It has come to mean rubbish or bad.
    What a load of crap. That's crap workmanship. The weather is crap today,
    .
    etc.....
     

    SweetBird

    Member
    USA english
    I think that the word crap is pretty vulgar even though it is widely used.

    I would not use this word in a business letter or interview or in any "polite" setting.

    Oh there is a casino dice game called "craps".
     

    kan3malato

    Senior Member
    Italia/Italiano
    HI all.
    My English is poor:( but as far as I know crap very often It's vulgar.
    Have a look at this http://www.wordreference.com/enit/crap.
    It's a "dangerous" word and I use It just with very close friends.
    Thanks.


    ps
    wow!!I've just noticed I wrote my 500 post here in "premier league":D
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi fenixpollo,

    The word crap as it relates to excrement is vulgar on a par with the word shit.

    A quick look in the dictionary http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/crap gives lots of uses and shades of vulgarity that matches closely with my view.

    The degree to which society considers discussions of bodily functions to be taboo or vulgar is not static. I think that during the last 50 years the strength of these taboos has weakened dramatically.

    As an aside, I was surprised to learn that the word isn't derived from John Crapper's name. I was also surprised to learn that John Crapper was not the inventor of the flush toilet.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's a milder version of shit, almost a euphemism, not very offensive, but not a word to use in situations where respectful language would be appropriate.

    I think "take a crap" is the most vulgar, as it is literal. I wouldn't use that in front of anyone. I think the least offensive usage is in something like: "That episode of 'Friends' was crap", this is quite mild I think.

    "Cut the crap" is fairly belligerent, I think, but that's not much to do with the offensiveness of "crap" per se.

    I think there is an element of humour in the use of the word.

    This is my view from a British perspective.

    (I agree with kan3malato's comment about usage with friends only.)
     

    Q-cumber

    Senior Member
    What about an adjective "crappy" and superlative "crappiest"? Are these a bit "softer"? For example, in Russian a word "crappy"(shitty) is definitely less vulgar, than a "crap" (shit).


    In my opinion the word "crap" is somewhat equal to "bullshit" by its vulgarness' level.
     

    ernest_

    Senior Member
    Catalan, Spain
    Hello mate,
    To me, 'crap' has the same rank as 'shit' or 'shite' in terms of offensiveness, as they all have the same meaning; although I can understand that some words may lose their original meaning, perhaps 'crap' doesn't mean the same as 'shit' to a native speaker.

    Anyroad, I was going to open a similar thread; if you don't mind I'll ask here. It'd be nice to have a list sorted by politeness of the following words: crap, shite, shit, bollocks, rubbish (meaning 'nonsense'). Additions are also welcome.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    I think it's relevant to compare "crap" in vulgarity to other words with similar meaning.

    One of the meanings of crap is "excrement". I would say that while petereid and wordlover are correct in that it's a synonym of shit, I think that it doesn't have the same register or vulgarity: I would place it slightly lower on the list (meaning less vulgar) than shit.

    The other words you listed do not mean "excrement" and are not common in American English, so I can't comment on them.

    Cheers.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There is something special about crap (as distinguished from shit). The term crap out comes from the game of craps and is not more vulgar than discussing other casino gambling such as blackjack.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    When used as a synonym for shit, it is nearly as vulgar. When used to describe random objects or material, it is not vulgar, but colloquial register.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I don't agree..."why are you giving me all this crap?" is not nearly as offensive as "why are you giving me all this shit?"
     

    SweetBird

    Member
    USA english
    I am sorry Musical Chairs but they are both pretty vulgar and offensive except in the company of close friends.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    "except in the company of close friends" - yes. But if you weren't, why would you use the words anyway?
     

    Xewells

    Senior Member
    American English
    To me, the word crap is safe word. There are for worse words I could use and by using crap I'm probably censoring my language. This may come with being young, my parents don't use crap (except on rare occaisions). I think it's a generation thing. I know very few people my age who find the word crap offensive. The problem arises when interacting with people from other generations. When I talk to my dad, I know doesn't appreciate the word so I don't use it with him. I also wouldn't use this in a formal setting (ie business meetings, letters, nice dinners, etc.). But as far as everyday usage goes, it's usable.
     

    vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think it depends where you are. "Darn" isn't going to bother anyone, while "shit" is generally considered vulgar. "Crap" is somewhere in between. Its something I wouldn't say in church, but if I'm walking around on the street I won't think twice about it.
     

    Spaghetti888

    New Member
    English, Cantonese - United Kingdom
    I agree with Xewells, but it all depends on the context of course! For example, you would say "I'm going to the toilet" but you wouldn't say "I'm taking a crap"!!!
    I've defintely seen its level of vulgarity drop since the first time I came across it as a child
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I find it fairly offensive, not quite as offensive as "shit". It is my impression, based on American TV I've seen, that it is more common in the US and not quite so offensive. One example is hearing children use it in pre-watershed shows whereas I'm fairly sure no British made programme would have a kid use that word pre-watershed.
     

    TheIndemo

    Member
    United Kingdom;English
    I don't find it very offensive although I wouldn't say it if I could help it. It is one of the mildest swearwords around though I would say. I don't think I would say it in front of my parents.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I think it's worse than (edit: I meant NOT worse than...sorry) "shit" because you can say it more often in more settings without getting into trouble. For example, even if you were with strangers and you cut yourself, you can say "crap" and people will be like ouch...whereas if you went "shit" they'd be like :-o (maybe)
     

    Spaghetti888

    New Member
    English, Cantonese - United Kingdom
    I think it's worse than "shit" because you can say it more often in more settings without getting into trouble. For example, even if you were with strangers and you cut yourself, you can say "crap" and people will be like ouch...whereas if you went "shit" they'd be like :-o (maybe)
    It's definitely not worse than shit. I mean, even shit itself isn't that offensive anymore....
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Seriously. Especially among teenagers, "shit" is used in much the multipurpose way "fuck" is: for example, "take a shit," "shitfaced," "shit!," and there have been modified forms like "shat" to make it sound not so offensive --- pretty common. Maybe it's just where I live, but...I don't see how "crap" can be as offensive or more offensive than "shit."
     

    koabr3gn

    New Member
    United States
    I really don't think "crap" is that vulgar. But, then again, I am a college student which means vulgarity is the norm! lol.
    I wouldn't say it in a professional setting but in everyday speech it's not that bad.
    I say it all the time...and so do my professors!
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Oh yes, a few of my professors have used the word shit and people just laugh it off --- no offense taken.
     

    looking-at-the-stars

    Senior Member
    American English
    In my opinion, offensiveness is relative. If the word "crap" doesn't offend the people you say it too, then it's not offensive in that situation. That being said, it probably wouldn't offend the younger crowd but it should only be used in VERY informal situations. I've heard teachers and professionals say all the time, but once you reach the point that "crap" becomes ok in the classroom, the class has usually reached informal in my book.
    I, personally, don't take offense to "crap" (especially if the speaker doesn't mean to offend). But like koabr3gn, I'm a college student so I hear a relatively high amount of vulgarity in conversations.
    Also, on a whole, most people I've met find "shit" more offensive than "crap."
     

    Q-cumber

    Senior Member
    Uh-oh...nobody answered my question. What do you think about an adjective - "crappy". Some examples: "I've been in a crappy mood all week". "This is a crappy situation", "...through the great times and crappy times" and so on. Do these sentences sound vulgar or rude to you? In a word, would you say such a phrase to your mother?
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Uh-oh...nobody answered my question. What do you think about an adjective - "crappy". Some examples: "I've been in a crappy mood all week". "This is a crappy situation", "...through the great times and crappy times" and so on. Do these sentences sound vulgar or rude to you? In a word, would you say such a phrase to your mother?
    Depends on the mother.

    There is a certain neutrality to the word "crappy." As several already noted, crap is a euphemism for shit, and therefore crappy is a little more proper, less vulgar, than shitty. That said, it still retains some vulgarity and I think will always be slightly vulgar because it refers to the bodily function. It's not until you get to a word like "bad" or "unfavorable" or "losing", i.e. "This is a bad situation," that the construction ceases to be vulgar. As long as you can see someone hunkered over a toilet, it's vulgar.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    coiffe

    Thanks, I got it. But, should we put these two words - "crap" & "crappy" on the vulgarity scales, will the scales balance?
    Great question. Actually I would say no, they don't balance. Crap equates to shit (as in the steaming pile of), whereas crappy may just equate more to bad, i.e. The weather is crappy today. Crap is more vulgar than crappy.

    I don't think "crap" is particularly vulgar, but I wouldn't use it in certain contexts and situations. In a formal situation, you could say somebody's speech was a "load of crap," but it would be more delicate to say that it was "really off the mark" or something.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

    I have a hard time with the idea that a curse word can be vulgar in one situation and not vulgar in another... but apparently the consensus is that most people consider that crap is sometimes almost as vulgar as "shit", but usually no more vulgar than "darn".
     

    Tatzingo

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I don't consider it vulgar. I would use it to emphasise the quality (or lack of) of something. In my mind, it it a bit stronger than rubbish. I'd avoid it if i were being polite, but in all seriousness, if i were being polite, I wouldn't even say that something is rubbish.

    Tatz.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It's a milder version of shit, almost a euphemism, not very offensive, but not a word to use in situations where respectful language would be appropriate.

    I think "take a crap" is the most vulgar, as it is literal. I wouldn't use that in front of anyone. I think the least offensive usage is in something like: "That episode of 'Friends' was crap", this is quite mild I think.

    "Cut the crap" is fairly belligerent, I think, but that's not much to do with the offensiveness of "crap" per se.
    This is my impression, as well.

    Neil Young has an amusing song named Piece of Crap (look for the lyrics on the net). I don't think it sounds as aggressive as Piece of Shit would be.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I've heard that the word "crap" comes from Thomas Crapper - the man who invented the flushing toilet.
    It's less offensive than "shit" and more offensive than "poo".
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think the intent of the word determines how offensive it is.

    If I say, "Don't give me this crap", and the intent is "Don't give me this nonsense", then it is not too offensive.

    But if someone says, "I am going to take a crap", then it is pretty offensive as the meaning is "I am going to take a shit".

    There are other words that are used similarly.

    "Schmuck", which in Yiddish means "penis" [slang] is an example.

    "That guy is such a schmuck", has the meaning that he is such a "jerk", and not that he is a "penis". I would not find this too offensive either.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I think the intent of the word determines how offensive it is.

    If I say, "Don't give me this crap", and the intent is "Don't give me this nonsense", then it is not too offensive.

    But if someone says, "I am going to take a crap", then it is pretty offensive as the meaning is "I am going to take a shit".
    But by that argument, surely all euphemism would be useless since the intent would be known. For example, your argument would prove that "number 2" in the phrase "He's gone for a number 2" would be as offensive as "shit", wouldn't it?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    But by that argument, surely all euphemism would be useless since the intent would be known. For example, your argument would prove that "number 2" in the phrase "He's gone for a number 2" would be as offensive as "shit", wouldn't it?
    I don't think that "I am going to take a crap" is a euphemism at all. A euphemism is a kinder way of phrasing an unpleasant fact. I think this is simply a different way of phrasing it and not a euphemism.
     

    Bubbles~:P

    New Member
    Canada, French
    I don't believe the word "crap" to be very offensive, it only deserves a warning from my mother, if she's in a bad mood. But whenever my friend Cassie-D says "crap" OR "shit" the teacher says nothing, and I go to a catholic school. I wouldn't consider "crap" as a swear word.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I don't think that "I am going to take a crap" is a euphemism at all. A euphemism is a kinder way of phrasing an unpleasant fact. I think this is simply a different way of phrasing it and not a euphemism.
    But it is if it comes from the name of the maker of toilets, surely?
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Indeed, yes. But I don't mind fowl laguage at all, I use it enough around my friends.
    Sorry, I have to correct you here: fowl language would be spoken by chickens or indeed any other type of bird. I believe you mean foul language.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    I think the intent of the word determines how offensive it is.

    If I say, "Don't give me this crap", and the intent is "Don't give me this nonsense", then it is not too offensive.

    But if someone says, "I am going to take a crap", then it is pretty offensive as the meaning is "I am going to take a shit".
    The flaw in your argument is that "crap" is a synonym of "shit", not a synonym of "nonsense".

    If you say, "don't give me this crap", what you are really saying is "don't give me this shit", but you're saying it in a way that won't get you in trouble with your Catholic-school teacher. In other words, "crap" is a euphemism -- a kinder way of stating an unpleasant fact.
    "Schmuck", which in Yiddish means "penis" [slang] is an example.

    "That guy is such a schmuck", has the meaning that he is such a "jerk", and not that he is a "penis". I would not find this too offensive either.
    Again, "schmuck" is not a synonym of "jerk", as far as I know. If you call a person a "schmuck", you're calling them a penis.

    Just because a word is a less-vulgar variant of another, doesn't mean that the definition of the word changes. "Crap" means "excrement".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Specifically when used to refer to excrement, the OED labels crap as coarse slang.
    Used to refer to nonsense, rubbish, the label is slang.
    That doesn't help a great deal, since if I say your work is a load of crap you don't know which definition I have in mind.


    Crap has been around since long before Thomas Crapper.

    Despite urban legend, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet (the myth being helped by the surname). However, Crapper put in effort to popularise it and did come up with some related inventions. He was noted for the quality of his products and received several Royal Warrants. The noun "crap" was in use long before he was born, but no longer used in Victorian Britain.
    Wiki
    See also theplumber.com and the Urban Legends Reference Pages.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The flaw in your argument is that "crap" is a synonym of "shit", not a synonym of "nonsense".

    If you say, "don't give me this crap", what you are really saying is "don't give me this shit", but you're saying it in a way that won't get you in trouble with your Catholic-school teacher. In other words, "crap" is a euphemism -- a kinder way of stating an unpleasant fact. Again, "schmuck" is not a synonym of "jerk", as far as I know. If you call a person a "schmuck", you're calling them a penis.

    Just because a word is a less-vulgar variant of another, doesn't mean that the definition of the word changes. "Crap" means "excrement".
    What is the intent of the person using the word? Is he saying "I think you are a penis?" or is he saying "I think you are a jerk"?
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    The flaw in your argument is that "crap" is a synonym of "shit", not a synonym of "nonsense".
    And a possible flaw in this statement is the assumption that the word crap has only a single meaning. There are many English words with a multitude of meanings. I believe this is one of them.
    Random House Unabridged:
    –noun
    1.Vulgar. a.excrement. b.an act of defecation.
    2.Slang: Sometimes Vulgar. a.nonsense; drivel. b.falsehood, exaggeration, propaganda, or the like
    3.refuse; rubbish; junk; litter:
    Again, "schmuck" is not a synonym of "jerk", as far as I know. If you call a person a "schmuck", you're calling them a penis.
    I think you are confusing etymology with current meaning.

    noun(Yiddish) a jerk
    WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.
    n. Slang
    A clumsy or stupid person; an oaf.
    [Yiddish shmok, penis, fool, probably from Polish smok, serpent, tail.]
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    schmuck "contemptible person," 1892, from E.Yiddish shmok, lit. "penis," from Old Pol. smok "grass snake, dragon."
    emphasis added.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

    I have a hard time with the idea that a curse word can be vulgar in one situation and not vulgar in another... but apparently the consensus is that most people consider that crap is sometimes almost as vulgar as "shit", but usually no more vulgar than "darn".
    I'd disagree with that, and I don't see that consensus when I read through this thread.

    "Darn" is so mild that I would use it with a child. I would not say "crap" to a child. I believe people would not think twice of my saying, "Darn! The cat crawled under the sofa again" around a child, but to say, "Crap! The cat..." etc. would be considered offensive by many parents when speaking around their child.

    "Crap" is much milder than "shit", in my opinion, but much stronger than "darn."
     
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