I was on the phone with one of my sisters the other day, when the subject turned to politics. In reference to our fearless leaders, I said, “Those bastards don’t know shit.”

She corrected me with, “Oh, you mean those guys don’t know poo?”

Oh shit, that’s right, I remembered, I’m talking to my religious sister. She’s an uppity-up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her husband’s an elder, you know, so she’s big-time, and has to set an example for everyone. And in that religion, “shit” is apparently an unacceptable way to refer to the fecal matter that drops from the anus.

The appropriate alternative is “poo.”

Worldly people say, “shit,” whereas those who are not of this world say, “poo.”

Poo is acceptable in any Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can say that word repeatedly, while attending their meetings, and they’ll just smile, and maybe even giggle, and you will be tops with them.

In fact, you can say, “poo” to any religious person. Nuns love poo. So do ministers. And so do Sunday School teachers.

Poo goes well with religion, but it’s also appropriate for mixed company. I don’t quite know what “mixed” company actually is, but from a small child I’ve heard admonishments along the lines of, “you can’t say that in mixed company,” or “don’t do that in mixed company.” I suppose it means you’re in the company of people who are mixed up about things, and thus are easily offended.

When you’re in mixed company, it’s risky to say the word, “shit,” because sometimes people will find it objectionable. But it’s never risky to say, “poo.” You can even add an “h” to the word, then double it, as in, “I pooh-pooh that.” Which I think means, “I shit on that.”

Adding an “h” to poo brings to mind Winnie the Pooh. Kids love Winnie the Pooh. I never cared much for that sanctimonious, priggish, moralizing, turd-shaped bear, but maybe that’s because I discovered the word, “shit,” at a young age. When I first became aware of Winnie the Pooh I wondered, why don’t they call him Winnie the Shit? Does calling shit “pooh” make it any less smelly or disgusting?

I prefer “shit” to “poo.” Shit is more authentic. Also, it’s a much more versatile word. It doesn’t always refer to the stinky material that draws all those flies. It can mean all kinds of things. But when you try to use the word “poo” to refer to anything other than the defecations secreted by our bowels, it really falls flat.

For instance, when someone says, “I have to get my shit together,” everyone knows they’re not referring to that awful stuff that gets flushed down the toilet. No, they’re speaking in the abstract. They’re referring to their life, and various aspects of their life that may be a bit disorganized at the moment.

But when someone says, “I have to get my poo together,” it leaves me in a muddle. I’m picturing them collecting the brown stuff from their toilet, and putting it all together in a sack. Perhaps a blivet bag.

If you’re going through hard times, and someone commiserates with you by saying, “Wow, that’s some tough shit, man,” you know exactly what they mean, and you feel consoled. But what if they say, “Wow, that’s some tough poo, man,” wouldn’t that sound a little weird and off-putting? Tough poo? There’s nothing consoling about that. That just brings to mind the sort of stuff that’s requires multiple flushes to get down the loo.

And yet, many religious people try to use the word “poo” in just this way. For them it’s a substitute for “shit” in all of our scatological idioms, bromides, and other cliches.

To me, it comes off as awkward, dorky, and wacky. If someone considers “shit” to be a taboo word, then they might not want to say it. But it strikes me as strange when they use “poo” as a substitute. It just doesn’t work, unless they’re actually referring to the fecal matter that drops from the anus.

But even then, it sounds like toddler-speak, in my view. And so does “poop” and “caca.” I hardly ever use those words. I grew out of them before I lost my baby teeth. I will, however, utilize the heteroclitical term, “crap,” fairly often. It’s a semi-taboo word that can pass without raising many eyebrows, in mixed company.

I sometimes feel sorry for religious people who seem compelled to resort to silly measures like saying the word, “poo,” to avoid taboo behavior. But perhaps that’s the price they must pay to get on the list for housing in heaven.

I violate taboos right and left, so I’m not on that list. I guess me and my filthy mouth are going to hell. And that’s some tough shit, man.


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