You struggle for half an hour trying to put together a bookcase from a Scandinavian superstore, only to discover the instruction sheet you’ve been following is for a wine rack. In another scenario, you see the police car light up in the rear view mirror and suddenly realize your car inspection sticker expired two months ago.
These types of situations are as unavoidable as potholes in March or a humongous nose-zit on the day of your big interview. It’s called life, people. We’re adults here; we deal with it and move forward. If you’re like many people, these moments of unpleasant surprise are worthy of some sort of verbal acknowledgement to the fates who are responsible for dealing you such a crappy hand.
One of my father’s favorite things to grumble at such times was, “Jesus Christ on a crutch!” We weren’t an especially religious family, so my brothers and I had little fear of lightning strikes or plague-of-locusts type retributions for his blasphemy. We just knew that Dad was fed up and we’d be well advised to steer clear of him.
An acquaintance I met much later in life used a similar phrase but put the Savior on a Harley instead of a crutch. Others have been known to put the Son of God on a pogo stick.
Each of these utterances is colorful in its own way. Christ on a crutch strikes me as more alliterative than visual, though I can picture Him spraining an ankle tripping on an Easter egg when He rose from the dead. Putting the Number One Son on a motorcycle, on the other hand, is purely visual. The comical image of His robes and long locks flowing in the breeze is trumped only by Him kick starting that hog in a pair of ratty sandals. In an effort to avoid upsetting the more pious readers any further, I’ll skip discussion of the pogo stick entirely.
As amusing as the thought of the Son of God cruising on an Electro-Glide may be, it’s got a definite time stamp on it. Biblical scholars among you might point out that my Dad’s saying is not exactly timeless either, as J.C. only walked or limped the earth a couple of thousand years ago. So an ancient Egyptian, when faced with the lack of Brown-Out© correction fluid for fixing the errors on his papyrus scroll, would have had to utter something else. On a side note, who would’ve guessed that biblical scholars read this blog?
The mütter of all ütterances* has to be free of references to a given era, or the gadgets of the day. It’s got to be composed of only the most elemental components. It should be just as applicable to today’s suburban Dad dropping his iPhone in the urinal at the strip club**, as it would have been to a Neanderthal man stubbing his toe while dragging his newly found mate by her hair.
For those of you who haven’t already guessed it, the original saying for man during moments of frustration and/or dismay is none other than the classic; “Shit on a stick!”
The roots of this gem of an utterance can be traced further back to the single syllable cry of “Shit!” Linguistics experts agree that after creating words to describe fire, cave, hunger and constipation, early man likely named excrement next. Shortly after our ancient ancestors came up with a name for poop, they discovered that saying “Shit!” sometimes just wasn’t enough.
Putting the shit on a stick was a natural choice. Shit on the ground was hardly worth noting. Shit in the sky was a fairly rare phenomenon despite the sizable number of pterodactyls dropping six pound deuces all over the Greater Pangaea metropolitan area. This is not to say that airborne feces didn’t have a place in the vocabulary – but the use of the term “shit-storm” was developed much later and usually employed for more disastrous situations.
Shit on a stick has it all, linguists can only marvel at the catchy rhythm of the words strung together in simple-yet-elegant single syllables. Its practicality is excellent, as the phrase can easily fit into one exasperated exhalation. From a content standpoint, it harkens back to a simpler time, when our ancestors valued a nice stick, and lamented the wasting of a perfectly good one because it had doo-doo on it.
*For all you smart-assed experts in Teutonic grammar who want to point out that “mütter” is the plural form of mother, and that “ütterance” isn’t a word at all, save your breath. I wanted to use some umlauts for comedic effect, and by golly I did. It’s unlikely I succeeded however, as funny letter symbols from foreign languages seldom amüse people and are more likely to scare them away from a post. One can only hope I’ll lëarn from my mistäkes.
**Putting the iPhone in a container of uncooked rice is often effective for getting it to work again. As for getting it to smell better, you’re on yoür own.