Why are there so many synonyms for poop?

September 17, 2006 | By | 9 Replies More

I don’t usually go around discussing poop.

That might have changed forever, though, once I stumbled upon smellypoop.com, a site dedicated to disseminating information about . . . well, poop.  Smellypoop.com is a refreshingly frank site presenting “solid” information on a subject that simultaneously compels and repels. 

For example, smellypoop.com addresses each of the following topics (as well as others):

  • What is poop made of?
  • Why does poop stink?
  • Why is bird poop white?
  • Are there people who eat poop?
  • Why does some poop float?
  • What Happens When I’m At WORK and I have to Poop? 

But there’s more.  Smellypoop.com provides comprehensive research on the topic of farts. You can order fake poop and poop-themed greeting cards at the site (click on “Order Fake Poop and Other Great Gifts”).  There is a poop forum and a poop photo gallery.   You’ll find poop poems, poop riddles, and poop sayings, including “Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day” (attributed to Harry S Truman).

What especially interests me, though, is the comprehensive list of poop synonyms at smellypoop.com.  There are hundreds of them.  Though I was already aware of dozens of poop terms (including the classic four-letter reference and oldie-but-goodie “number two”), I was woefully unaware of the vast number of poop synonyms.  Thanks to stinkypoop.com, my repertoire now includes terms like “blind eels,” “bootycakes,” “colon cobras,” “dookie-doop-droop” “mooky-stinks,” and the quaint but useful “pooplets.”

Why so many synonyms for a basic bodily function, I wondered?  Then it hit me: poop is one of those topics that A) we must regularly deal with and B) cannot easily be construed in non-animal terms.  This combination, it turns out, is the perfect storm for the frenzied generation of synonyms.  Just think of other functions that cause us to scramble for synonyms, e.g., peeing, copulating and dying.  In each of these cases, we constantly run from our own words by creating new words’ we keep generating synonyms because we can’t entirely escape the concepts themselves.  In the case of poop, it’s especially difficult to pretend that we’re not animals when we have deal with poop every day (if we’re lucky, that is).  Every time we poop, we are reminded that we’ve got butts that (no matter how hard we try to construe it otherwise) remind us of the butts of animals!  Arrrggghhhh!

For those who already think of themselves as animals rather as special, uniquely design semi-ethereal beings right off of God’s blackboard, none of this presents a problem.  For those who think of humans as special acts of creation, though, poop presents a big problem.  For them, it’s like we’ve all been jury-rigged with out-of-date off-the-shelf technology.  How disappointing for us heaven-bound “special” beings to be short-changed by the Designer. It’s bad enough that we are saddled with these cumbersome and failure-prone wingless bodies.  But what really frustrates fundamentalists is that the icky stinky substance that comes out of our bottoms is just like the icky stinky substance that comes from the bottoms of the lowly animals. Ergo . . .  “Wait!” they say.  “Can’t go there because Darwin is EVIL!!!”

The failure of fundamentalists to recognize that we are truly and undeniably animals (exquisite and wonderful animals, I should add) is a deep and pervasive failure from which, in my opinion, many societal conflicts stem.  I’ve previously dealt with this issue (humans refusing to think of themselves as animals).   To summarize that earlier post, to the extent that we go around thinking of ourselves as “above” nature we lose the ability to function as part of nature.  Intellectually, we become bulls in the china shop of life.This world view, that of being “above nature,” has several aberrant effects.  The biggest one on today’s radar is the tendency to treat the Earth as a huge disposable diaper that one is entitled to exploit on the way to heaven.  Another major problem is the failure to appreciate Darwin’s magnificent ideas.

If you’d like to run a quick experiment, just ask any fundamentalist whether humans are “animals.”  The answer should be a simple “yes,” (check any dictionary).  What you’ll see when you ask this question, however, are averted eyes, and hemming and hawing.  What you’ll hear are tortured attempts to draw a bright line between human animals and the other mammals.  In their own minds, fundamentalists are in the chrysalis stage, their angelic wings destined to unfold at the second coming. 

For you fundamentalists who were seduced into reading this post as a result of the scatological headline, humans aren’t just any “animal”: by the common definition, we are also “apes.”  There’s simply no evidence-based argument to the contrary.  Why else would you find poopers on people? 

To be cured of their brainwashings, Fundamentalists will need to do more than utter the sentence that humans are animals.  They need to contemplate this enthralling idea repeatedly and deeply.  They should also read Frans De Waal’s The Ape and the Sushi Master (2004).  They need to contemplating the idea that they are animals repeatedly, maybe even once each week for one hour on Sunday mornings.  Like I say, enough to undo the brainwashings they’ve received over the years. Really and truly, all of the animals on the planet are our cousins. If not, why do people poop?  The plants are also our cousins (though the are more distant cousins).  A good read on this topic is The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, by Richard Dawkins (2004). With all of our cousins we share this common need of getting rid of waste products.

Many humans will not be willing to do this homework.  They will refuse to consider themselves to be animals, due to all of those “animalistic” attributes of animals.  In fact, the thought that they might be animals horrifies many people.  Those squeamish humans work hard to convince themselves that they are non-animals who just happen to eat, poop and copulate.  Those squeamish people also work really hard to convince themselves that we never actually die, due to those invisible souls that attach at birth (for a photo of this alleged attachment process, see here).  They consider it to be entirely coincidence that we have noses, mouths, ears, stomachs and eyes like those of so many other animals. They barely tolerate that we have to share the same Chain of Being neighborhood as the other life forms of this planet (see “My Life as a Sponge”). Anything that threatens their angelic wings annoys them.

But back to poop.  The regular need to poop antagonizes fundamentalists.  Maybe they won’t admit this, but it does.  Pooping antagonizes them just like those other basic functions we share with other animals: copulating, peeing, eating and dying.  That they poop haunts Fundamentalists thusly: “Why did the Intelligent Designer made me so closely resemble lowly animals?  They don’t admit this inner pain, but I know it’s true.  I see it in their eyes.

How do fundamentalists deal with the fact that their bodies function so much like the bodies of other animals?  There’s only two ways:  A) Pretend those function are not really animal activities by giving them a social overlay or B) generate lots of synonyms.

Eating has been made tolerable using the first approach.  We’ve turned eating into a social activity.  We are carefully trained to focus on the food and the companions, not that people are putting their food into a hole below their noses and not that they gnash it before swallowing it.  We are carefully trained to keep our mouths closed while we chew.   We’ve also learned to decorate our food so that it doesn’t remind us that it’s like the food eaten by lowly animals.  We go out or our way keep from reminding each other that “chicken” is actually chicken

Our animal bodies present an ongoing problem. Nude beaches?  Bad! You see, we don’t see ourselves as animals because we have been trained to see ourselves as “humans,” not human animals.  In many social situations, this isn’t a constant problem because we hide most of our bodies with clothing.  Note especially the long flowing robes often worn by church leaders.  Wearing those clothes they appear to be spirits floating down the aisle, not animals using their legs (hey, what do we call animals’ legs?  Oh, “legs!”).  In our clothes we become decorated beings, not animals.  After all, lowly animals don’t were clothing–we chuckle when we see mere animals wearing clothes.  Normally, we don’t see much of ourselves anyway.  We see only those out-of-focus tips or our noses, our knees, hands and feet.  Animal?  What animal? We are special beings!

What about sex – are we comfortable with the idea of sex?  Hah!  Just checking to see if you’re still reading closely. Maybe we’re comfortable with sex when it involves the missionary position, half-dressed in the dark. But otherwise?  We do our best to paint the activity as “romantic” and, like St. Paul, we begrudgingly allow it as the price to pay for creating new Believers.  But for God’s sake, we are told, don’t do it for pleasure!  These approaches to sex have partially succeeded.  But not always.  Hence, hundreds of synonyms for sex.

There’s absolutely no way to glamorize pooping, though.  There’s no romance, no ulterior motive, no esoteric overlay.  There’s no church ceremony dedicated to defecation.  There’s no higher calling for those who do it especially well.  Pooping is an animal activity, plain and simple.  Even the the brightest and best members of the symbolic species is at a loss when it comes to poop.   Hence our torrent of synonyms to pave our escape route.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Food, Language, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Sex

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (9)

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  1. hogiemo says:

    I am reminded that Ghandi always asked ashram friends if they had a good bowel movement, which he believed was the best start to any day. I concur. Erich, have you had a good bowel movement today? Salud! (or is it "solid") Eh, no matter!

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Hogiemo: You first, my friend. How was your bowel movement today? Hey! Aren't we talking as if we are old men?

  3. hogiemo says:

    Very fine, thank you. We are not yet old, although 50. The kids keep us young, as God willed. How do I make the italics?

  4. H Helm says:

    Did you have a BM yet today? Was it soft or solid? AM or PM? How much toilet paper did you need? Did you put your hand in toilet and check the texture?

  5. H. Helm says:

    Poop? Who calls shit, poop? I almost shit in my pants when i read someone use the word poop.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    hogiemo: I'm looking for a scatologist in the yellow pages. Unsuccessfully. H. Helm is insistently asking some questions, some rhetorical and some I'd rather not answer. I seem to have brought this on myself by by my choice of topic. By the way, I could have substituted vomit for poop and still have made the same point, someone pointed out to me by email.

  7. hogiemo says:

    It's "poop" when you have any kids you don't want saying "shit" at school. Although my 5 year old has been called on the carpet for saying it. Sometimes pottie, number 2, a dump, you get the drift.

    Is there a "smellyvomit.com"? Should we register the domain name and sell plastic puke and donate the money to hunger prevention? ''Scuse me, I'm off!

    The consistency of my poop depends upon my diet, rest level and other factors unknown to me. If you want more info, you're shit outta luck!

    Erich you need to "google" scatologist for any real help, or have you tried Hare Krishna?

  8. gatomjp says:

    Ghandi was right. It's the best way to start the day. I feel…optimistic after a good one. Make fun of poop all you want, but when you can't poop it becomes the most important thing in the world!

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