shite [obsolete, British or slangy?]

csicska

Senior Member
hungarian
Hello. I was trying to find a classification for the variant of "shit" - "shite" but dictionaries seem to take different stances on it. Could you please advise if you consider "shite" to be purely British, or archaic or slangy or something else? Thank you.

Example:
Shite! I forgot my cell phone at home.
 
  • RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I've heard it but it's definitely not American.

    The question (in my view) is whether it is genuinely a historical holdover or a more modern, creative backformation. There is no question that around 1400 onward there was a vowel shift in which, among other things, the "i" sound changed. So, for example, "time" previously was pronounced more like "teem". By parallel, "shite" would in some English dialects have been pronounced like "sheet". (You can see this in Chaucer.) The older "sheet" pronunciation would have also yielded "shit".
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've heard shite before, and therefore I don't consider it archaic. It sounds regional though. I think it's British and Irish. Occasionally, people might say shit-shite (both words at once) for effect.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I've always thought of "shite" as originally Irish.

    Curiously, where I come from, it was rather more acceptable than "shit". We used to use it a lot, for that very reason. I can't say whether it's still in popular use in southern England as a (semi-)minced oath.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Yeah, very true. In "Rob Roy" they say it very often, or at least 3-4 times throughout the film. The lord that says it speaks Scottish.

    Why have I always been tempted to spell it as 'shyte', though? :D I may have been plain wrong...
     
    I've always thought of "shite" as originally Irish.

    Curiously, where I come from, it was rather more acceptable than "shit". We used to use it a lot, for that very reason. I can't say whether it's still in popular use in southern England as a (semi-)minced oath.
    I should say that, as a non native user of the language, I have always interpreted shite as a less crude more "polite" version of the real word :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    shite as a less crude more "polite" version of the real word
    Just so, but since they are obviously the same word it is rather curious that "shite" should sound not exactly more polite, but definitely a tad less vulgar or crude.

    Edit: Though now I come to think of it, it is quite common to hear a taboo word pronounced slightly "off" by a speaker who feels uncomfortable with it. I'm reminded of a Ben Elton skit making fun of posh southerners who can't quite bring themselves to say "fuck":


    [ Accusing Ben Elton of gratuitous use of bad language] It's not clever nor funny...
    I can say fark. Fark fark fark fark fark.
     
    Last edited:
    Just so, but since they are obviously the same word it is rather curious that "shite" should sound not exactly more polite, but definitely a tad less vulgar or crude.
    My idea was that a short word with a short vowel is more apt to express anger, disgust or frustration than a word with a rounder, hence softer, sound. I interpreted the choice of the word shite as a self-moderation, but I may be obviously wrong, especially if it has to be considered as a regional variant.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I've heard shite before, and therefore I don't consider it archaic. It sounds regional though. I think it's British and Irish. Occasionally, people might say shit-shite (both words at once) for effect.
    Apparently it's not archaic (or obsolete as in the title of this thread) because it's very much in everyday use in many British/Irish dialects. I'm not sure if you're responding to my comment. I was merely wondering if it was a recent development or a variant that has been around for six centuries or so.
     
    Last edited:

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm surprised at the suggestion that shite is a rather less offensive version of shit.
    Coming from the land of shite (meaning a country where this version is used), I find the longer version, shite, to be more offensive than the compact, terse, shit.
    That may be because shite is a more recent development - or it may be entirely my subjective impression.
    The OED lists shit from 16th/17th centuries onwards, shite emerges in the 18th century.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    The OED lists shit from 16th/17th centuries onwards, shite emerges in the 18th century.
    Clearly the word is older than that. It has cognates in other Germanic languages and is in Chaucer. I wonder what the OED is talking about. I don't mean to be argumentative in this thread, I am merely trying to clarify the terms of the discussion.

    edit: That entry may be from part of the as yet unrevised older edition, written when such things were not heavily researched.
     
    Last edited:

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are a couple of earlier references with the specific meaning of diarrhoea:
    a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1879) VII. 51 Men had þe feveres and bestes þe schyt [?a1475 anon. tr. a dethe or infirmite of beste callede the schute; L. lues animalium, quæ Anglice shitta, Latine fluxus interaneorum vocatur].

    The OED relies on documented usage. It is very unlikely that their contributors would have overlooked a Chaucerian reference.
     

    jmichaelm

    Senior Member
    English - US
    All the Irish people I've known, which is not a lot, said "shite". They meant shit in exactly the same way as Americans mean shit and did not seem to think it in any way a polite term. They certainly were not trying to be polite when they said "shite".
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    I agree with Velisarius, above, post #9. It's an imaginative variant; it has both color and is perhaps less offensive. It's like me saying to a friend I've gone to visit and I ring the doorbell. He comes, and I say, "Open the fackin' door, mate!"

    Regarding the novel, The Naked and the Dead (the story of an army unit, in WWII), there is this anecdote

    The novel is written in gritty, journalistic detail. However, this tone was dialed back as publishers persuaded Mailer to use to euphemism “fug” in lieu of the mother of all curse words — the “F” word — in his novel.
    Collecting The Naked and The Dead by Mailer, Norman - First edition identification guide
     

    moustic

    Senior Member
    British English
    Very common in Yorkshire.

    Saying of the day: It shines like shite on a barn door. (Obviously talking about something that doesn't shine).
    Oath used when (for example) hitting your thumb with a hammer: Shit shite wi' sugar on!
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ...
    edit: That entry may be from part of the as yet unrevised older edition, written when such things were not heavily researched.
    The entry for 'shit' was updated in 2011. Apart from that, it is reasonable to assume that those contributing from the beginning would have been mining Chaucer.

    There is, however, a Chaucerian reference, in the prologue, for 'shitten/shiten', from which one might reasonably infer that the noun form was in use at that time (c1405).
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Apart from that, it is reasonable to assume that those contributing from the beginning would have been mining Chaucer.
    There are many instances in which the original OED missed some pretty glaringly obvious citations. And nothing said so far explains why "shit" would only go back to the 16th century in the 2011 edition.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    OK, so you don't accept the OED, that's fine. We'd better agree to differ on its scholarly authority.
    I have no idea what you're talking about. Again, I am simply trying to clarify terms, and if one is not allowed to question "authority", where are we at? I asked "why", I did not say they didn't know shite.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    OED:
    Shite n. int. adj.: Variant of shit n., probably resulting from the influence of forms of shit v. with a long vowel, although there could also have been an (unattested) inherited form in Old English with a long vowel (deriving from the e-grade of the same Germanic base); compare Middle Low German schīt, schīte faeces, filth, Middle High German schīze diarrhoea (German Scheiße faeces), Old Icelandic skítr faeces.
    The word occurs earliest regionally (chiefly in Ireland (where it is the usual form) and Scotland), and subsequently in colloquial English as a jocular or quasi-euphemistic variant of shit . For possible older attestation in place names see the etymological note at shit n.
    It must not be forgotten that English was, for most of its early written life, massively variable in its pronunciation and spelling.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    For those who think the OED infallible, it isn't my job to disabuse you of your faith. I'm not attacking the OED and so far in my life experience has shown that nothing is perfect. That doesn't take away from the phenomenon that is the OED, it merely means that to err is human. There are other blogs where such things are openly discussed by people who also worship the OED, with both eyes open. These are people who have actually contributed earlier citations to the OED and had them published.

    It never occurred to me that a simple discussion could take such a nasty turn. :mad:

    It also turns out, as Paul has demonstrated, that the OED deals with the subject thoroughly. I don't have access to the OED, nor do I expect to any time soon. Last I checked it was fairly pricey. My original main point was not that the first authors were unaware of Chaucer (duh) but that they may have had other reasons for not delving into shit.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It never occurred to me that a simple discussion could take such a nasty turn. :mad:
    I'm just puzzled. Where the OED has a hiccup, the solution is for those who spot it to report it.
    And you say you don't have access to it?
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I'm just puzzled. Where the OED has a hiccup, the solution is for those who spot it to report it.
    And you say you don't have access to it?
    People do report it. I've never seen free access here in the US unless one is a member of some university or institution that provides it. I have a copy of the original in a two volume set with microscopic print. I get tired of lifting it down and getting out the magnifying glass (literally) so I guess I have my own laziness to blame to some extent. :)
     

    -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    The OED isn't free to the public, at least in the US. But we've generally heard shite from YouTube vloggers and television from the UK and Australia and wouldn't have any trouble with the word. Sometimes I even borrow it.

    The Australian Natalie Train comes to mind, using it in a popular YouTube video in which she uses the words fuck and shit-tastic so I don't think shite is meant to mince the oath.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I'm interested in the regional variation in attitudes to it harshness.

    I definitely see it as "softer" than saying shit (and think the theory about short vowel sounds someone* propounded seems very credible).
    Obviously native Irish speakers use / see it differently.

    *Chipulukusu #10
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The Irish English version is pronounced /ʃjɔɪt/ shyoit
    The BE/AE version is /ʃaɪt/

    Also we have
    The BE/AE fuck
    and
    The Irish English feck

    They are the same word and obviously have the same meaning but "feck" was used throughout in the TV Comedy Series "Father Ted" (set on a remote Irish island) and no offence seems to have been taken at "feck" (or /ʃjɔɪt/ which also appeared).

    However, had this been pronounced "fuck" (i) it is easy to see that complaints would have arrived by the thousand. (ii) the program would not have been aired before 21:00hrs local as this is considered to be "the watershed" for the time, after which, more "adult" language and actions can be broadcast.

    I do think that shite (and feck) is perceived as 'softer.'

    The idea of a reaction to a word that is generally perceived as offensive is irrational.
    You first have to know
    • of the word and
    • have a vague idea of its meaning and -
    • the usual context of its use; then
    • you have to be ignorant of its etymology, and then,
    • quite separately, agree to be "shocked" by it.
    The whole episode is purely cultural - as it gives the listener (often the addressee) an opportunity to release their own aggression in what is seen as a socially justifiable manner. It is this cultural reaction that can be avoided by (i) mispronunciation or (ii) the adoption of a variant.

    The mispronunciation of the word "shit" creates a euphemism, (e.g. darned -> damned; bloomin' = bloody; Jiminy! = Jesus Christ) - more accutely, it is a 'minced oath' and the same "outrage gland" in the brain is not triggered, or triggered to a far lesser degree.

    In the case of shite/shit; the "outrage gland" is only mildly triggered, if at all, as sufficient distance has been placed between the original (offensive) word and the spoken sound.
     
    Last edited:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The OED does not say that either noun form is older than the other, though it suggests that the noun form with the long vowel sound is probably derived from the verb.
    The entry for 'shit' contains this statement:
    Earlier currency of forms with original long i (which are otherwise not securely attested before the 18th cent.: see shite n.) is perhaps implied by place names; however, the evidence is problematic.
    Here, 'earlier' means earlier than Old English.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Father Jack's use of 'feck', although it may have introduced this version to a wider audience, reflected fairly common usage in Ireland, south and west.
    ... My original main point was not that the first authors were unaware of Chaucer (duh)
    Strawman
    but that they may have had other reasons for not delving into shit.
    And my point was that those who contributed to the first version of the OED found copious usage examples of shit and shite, none of which were as early as Chaucer, and that no Chaucerian, or equivalent age, examples had been reported in the intervening century or more - else they would have been included in the 2011 update.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top