The Meaning of Shit

get-attachment.aspxI opened my oven drawer yesterday, and was immediately reminded of a language misunderstanding I had years ago.

I already spoke English when I emigrated to the States. I even spoke it fluently. After all, I had had my first five years of education in Australia. I first learned to read and write in English. And during the last decade of my life in the Netherlands, between the end of college and meeting T, I spent every vacation I could in Great Britain.

So I spoke English when I emigrated.  But I didn’t speak American. And that was a serious impairment. Mark Twain described America and England as being two countries divided by a common language. No shit. Which means that’s right, or, you’re not kidding.

Which brings me to the topic of this post:  Shit.

To Americans, we Dutch are often so direct as to be downright rude. We say what we mean. So, as you can imagine, for a Dutch person like me, bullshitters were an unknown phenomenon.

I figured out rather quickly that a bullshitter is someone who is full of shit, but that didn’t get me very far. And it was imperative that I understand what these feces-filled people were about, because, judging by statements made by my husband and his friends about others, there were a lot of them here.

 I learned the hard way that the act of bullshitting means saying what one per definition doesn’t mean.When someone is bullshitting, he is just kidding, but he doesn’t necessarily want you to know that. At least not that instant. You are fully expected to come to the conclusion that he is full of shit, but not until later, when he’s long gone. It’s all about the moment.

Confusing times!

So when I took a batch of sardine puffs to a party and someone said, “Wow! These sardine puffs are out of this world; could you make a few hundred for a wedding seven weeks from now?”, I stupidly went and bought twenty mini muffin pans the next day, in preparation for the upcoming event.

What Party Guy really meant was, “Hey, I don’t know you and I’m not at all interested in getting to know you, but I do want to look  socially adept. I want everyone here to see that I can have an easy conversation with anyone–even with you, weird Dutch person. So this is me showing off how I can have a five-minute conversation ab0ut your sardine puffs without meaning a single word of it.”

It took me exactly seven weeks to figure that one out. And I still have a surplus of mini muffin pans.

5 responses to “The Meaning of Shit

  1. I am a native of the U.S. but am not considered very socially adept because I am too blunt or tactless. I’ve always thought it was ironic that people think I’m rude because I’m bad at “bullshitting” (and euphemisms and white lies and “small talk” and such). I wish Americans did value a more direct (or honest) approach. It would make my life a lot easier.


  2. “No shit” after the Mark Twain quote. I loved that. Funny stuff.


  3. I never thought about it before, but too true and too funny!


  4. Pingback: Resident Alien -- Being Dutch in America

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