B.S.

Don’t miss Mark Liberman’s ongoing investigation over at Language Log of the history of the word bullshit as applied to deprecated speech acts. Having taken it back to 1914 or perhaps 1910, he’s now pushed it to 1900. Oddly, he refers to but does not quote the first cite for “B.S.” in the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, so I’ll reproduce it here as a public service:

B.S. v. BULLSHIT.
1900 Howitzer (U.S. Mil. Acad.) (No. 1) 118: B.S.—volubility of discourse, or verbosity. Ibid. 138: Be-esse. n….Rough, crude talk.

Mark does, however, quote the glossary provided in the 1905 Howitzer yearbook “for the benefit of our struggling relatives and others who try to read our letters”; it expands “B.S.” to… British science!

Comments

  1. “bull” has its paralell, not only in french but in spanish “bola” :Mentira, rumor falso o infundio, generalmente con fines políticos o de otro género.
    Also, “bulo” : Noticia falsa propalada con algún fin.
    In Argentina and Uruguay, “bolazo” : hecho o dicho disparatado.

  2. Bullshit seems to be a popular topic lately.
    New Yorker article

  3. An equation:
    Bullshit = Dogfart
    (formally: B.S. = G.P.)

  4. Now that Green’s Dictionary of Slang is freely available, I can report that he takes bullshit back to 1879, but while the citation is strongly suggestive, I’m not sure it’s ironclad proof:

    1879 Dly Gaz. (Las Vegas, NM) 12 Sept. 1: Special Agent Adams came in from Denver yesterday and last night arrested B– S– Jack, Slap Jack Bill, both noted characters, and a man named Webb at a saloon on the east side.

    It’s surprising that Green hasn’t taken account of Liberman’s antedates.

  5. David Marjanović says:

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