Hey, Kids! Let’s Define a Word!

So, recently, I created a word, “shitcanoe,” to describe people who are, well, not good people. As far as I can tell its appearance on Whatever is the first time it’s ever been used as a general noun, although a quick check of Google has a couple of prior references as a gamer handle (strangely not surprising) and an Urban Dictionary definition of “shit canoe” — two words, there — as a chili hot dog, which, you know, ew. So, go me, I’ve invented another word.

But of course, aside from the vivid metaphorical usage of the word, people in the comments wanted to know, if a shitcanoe were a literal thing, what would be: A canoe made of shit, a canoe filled with shit, or a canoe used to traverse a body of shit? Well, I say, let’s put it to a vote!

Remember, this definition will one day go into the Oxford English Dictionary, so give it very serious thought. Thank you.

120 Comments on “Hey, Kids! Let’s Define a Word!”

  1. Though if it is a canoe used to traverse bodies of shit, that implies one could use it as a verb, much the same way I use ‘wading through bullshit’. For instance:

    Today I researched who I was going to vote for for Congress so I had to shitcanoe through their buzzword-happy websites to figure out their actual policies.

  2. I think I was the first person who asked the definition over on the original post, thus I’m not sure I can respond. Thanks for starting a poll just to satisfy my curiosity! ;)

  3. Before you start filing for trademarks, it might be worth researching the dialogue for the character Mr. Leahy on the Canadian television program “Trailer Park Boys”. Sounds like the kind of thing he would say.

  4. I’ve gone with – as it turns out – the most popular answer so far, but I was imagining in my head the singular to be “shitcano”, from a volcano full of shit spewing it’s unwelcome effluent on an unwilling population…

  5. A canoe filled with it. I like to picture a canoe floating serenely over clean, clear waters. Anytime anything happens to perturb the canoe’s passage, the effluvia within slops out.

  6. Regardless, a “shit canoe” is the vessel in which you travel up Shit Creek, from which you lose your paddle.

  7. Sorry about the (wrong) apostrophe in “it’s” – I really get anal about that when other people do it. Damn.

  8. The shitcanoe: the canoe into which you shit because you’re too afraid to leave the river bank and go into the woods because oh god what monsters are waiting to eat me while I’m pooping?

  9. A shitcanoe is an extended family gathering that you don’t want to attend, specifically because your family are ignorant and bigoted, but look down on your for your intelligence.

    Used in a sentence as follows:
    It’s Thanksgiving. Gotta take my yearly ride in the shitcanoe

  10. Given the usage (as a synonym for ‘asshole’) I went with “a canoe filled with shit” – my thinking is that the canoe is a metaphor for a person’s head, and the shit is the crappy ideas/personality/mental baggage that causes them to act like such an utter shitcanoe.

    Of course, some people have so MUCH shit in their canoe that it overflows and makes it seem like the canoe is made of shit, in which case they appear physically as well as mentally/emotionally repulsive (usually this appears as a permanent moue of disapproval or an ever-present squinty glare of suspicion).

    I suppose that the shit may overflow so much that it poisons the body of water in which they wallow and thus the “overdone” definition comes into play.

    At which point I realize that I have inadvertently made the overthinking poll option that much more appropriate…

  11. My friends and I have a glossary of words we’ve invented, but the one word we likely use the most is “shipiphany,” which is when you a) have an epiphany that’s really terrible [OMG–I just realized I was supposed to pay my credit card bill last week!] or b) you have an epiphany that turns our incorrect [Eureka! I just realized that the perfect gift for my wife on our anniversary is a shitcanoe!]

  12. Can you remind us of the exact contexts where it was first used? I’m not finding your twitter use of it.

    I note that shitcanoe goes back to at least 2012 on twitter: From February 12, 2012: “Trivia: Chris Brown isn’t related to Bobby. CB took his idol’s surname as a stage pseudonym but his checks still say Womanbeating Shitcanoe”

  13. A lump of wood (representing the average intelligence of a targeted individual) hollowed out into a canoe shape to contain excrement (indicating, based on usage, that the individual is either full of shit, only useful for containing shit, or should aspire to such a condition, because they’re currently not even that useful)

  14. Clearly, when things have been piled higher and deeper, so that it is at least waist-high to a giraffe, one must get into one’s shitcanoe and paddle to safety.

  15. When you first used the word I thought “shitcanoes” was the plural of “shitcano”, that being a volcano depositing shit over the entire landscape.

  16. I think of a shitcanoe as something you use to paddle through a river of shit. However, it can be used in 2 ways:

    a) A person searching for truth or integrity paddling through a river of shit (e.g., “I had to shitcanoe through so many right-wing blogs today…”)

    b) A person who is the canoe, unaware of the shit they’re coursing through (e.g., “Did you read that dude’s remarks at the convention? What a total shitcanoe!”)

  17. I voted for “canoe filled with shit”. But really, my mental picture when I think of the word is the actual amount of shit required to fill the canoe. A canoe-load of shit. Similar to a “buttload” or “shit-ton”.

  18. It is a canoe whose sole purpose is to traverse the seven seas delivering piles of shit onto everyone it meets (it could also be made of shit, but that’s strictly optional)

  19. I prefer a canoe filed with shit. Since you first used it to describe people I feel like that is the most accurate way to think of it. If people can be shitcanoes then it make sense to think of then as shiny and useful on the outside but full of crap on the inside.

  20. This is making me think of “douchecanoe”, a word I have heard used to describe people who are also not good people. The context in which I’ve heard the word causes me to infer that a douchecanoe so far exceeds the definition of “douche” that another syllable was needed, for emphasis. Douchecanoes I have heard of have always been male, and I think ‘canoe’, apart from it’s lovely sonic pattern in the word, is slightly phallic in shape, which reinforces the gender impression. It never occurred to me to wonder what specific manner of canoe was intended.

    Just as a shit is worse than a douche, a shitcanoe exponentially exceeds the villainy of the douchecanoe.

  21. I vote:

    A canoe made of shit, filled with shit and then used to traverse a body of shit, because anything worth doing is worth overdoing

    Publisher Ellora’s Cave used a shitcanoe instead of critical thinking methodology when they filed a libe/defamationl suit against blogging site Dear Author and founder Jane Litte.

    Or so I like to think.

  22. As a noun, I would give it two definitions:
    1) A canoe filled with shit (as described above).
    2) A trip which involved canoeing down a river of shit.

  23. I’m ambivalent about “shitcanoe” because it is ambiguous. It sounds like something you would call someone who is behaving badly, as observed by many of the commenters above.

    But taken literally, it seems complimentary — even sweet — as in, “Baby, you’re my shit-canoe.” When I need to get across an unusually large body of shit, you keep me buoyant enough to make it.

    That seems like the best way to interpret the metaphor proposed by this endocentric compound noun.

  24. Not sure why I thought your first use was on twitter instead of whatever… but here it is:

    “Conversely, there are people who believe the same things I do, with regard to the existence of god, who I judge to be absolute shitcanoes. Sometimes they were already shitcanoes, and sometimes they have decided their atheist/agnostic beliefs allow them — or even demand them — to be absolute shitcanoes to others. They’re terrible people and I want nothing to do with them. I’m okay with calling them out for being terrible people.”

    With that usage, I would like to change my vote to a canoe full of shit.

  25. shitcanoe: (N) A person who is always dumping their problems on others to garner sympathy.

    Use: “God damn, Joe. You are such a shitcanoe.”

  26. Sorry but the word itself doesn’t work for me because the first seven letters lead me to expect “shitcanned.” First time reading Whatever by phone, and on a moving train yet.

  27. “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

    Words to live by, even when everyone around would strongly prefer you drop dead. (Or at least lay off the triple espresso and Red Bull backs and get some sleep.)

  28. noun – A group of terrible people. ‘I’m not going to associate with that shitcanoe’

    noun – A particularly distasteful task whose undertaking is mandatory, ‘Okay lets get down to the bank and get this shitcanoe of a foreclosure started’

    noun – A fiasco. ‘we were trying to get ahold of some meth by ripping off Johnny the Neck and the whole thing turned into a shitcanoe’

  29. When put to the metaphoric use which John intends, it seems to me that it is equally workable whether the canoe is made of shit or is filled with shit. A vessel for navigating in shit would metaphorically refer to a person who is trying to help you.

  30. I voted for “canoe filled with shit,” because metaphorical shitcanoes are metaphorically full of shit.

  31. I, too, figure that this is the vesle involved in the proverbial creek. Usually the occupant is without a paddle as well.

  32. I think Chrome let me get away with misspelling “vessel.” (I’m one of those people for whom the squiggly red underline is a lifesaver – or at least a text saver)

  33. The people the word most aptly describes are completely full of shit, thus the shitcanoe must be as well.

  34. Hmmm…..if a shitcanoe is something used to traverse a river of shit, then it’s actually a GOOD thing, yes? Because, despite the unpleasant environment in which it exists, it (at least potentially) protects people from said river of shit.

    Seeing as the intention of the word is obviously not complimentary, I’ve got to go with “a canoe full of shit.” This had the added bonus (as other people have mentioned) of describing something that (a) can look nice on the outside, but be filled with shit on the inside, and/or (b) can tip at any moment, dump its shit into an otherwise beautiful river, and ruin it for everyone else.

    Both of those strike me as fairly apt descriptions of the type of person I imagine “shitcanoe” describing.

  35. Among the Whoopie Ti Yi Yo people of the Mountain West, who lived for centuries just hoping to have their traditions cited and copied by white New Agers, and went to bed every night praying to the Great Spirit to be visited by anthropologists who would ask them nosy questions about their sex lives, it was customary, so great was their regard for Mother Earth, that when upon long journeys on highly spiritual pristine rivers, especially the sort that eagles fly high above and elk drink from at dusk, they would, instead of taking a dump and burying it somewhere, save it all up till it could be disposed of reverently in a properly constructed and blessed compost heap.

    One Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, picked because no one could stand him anyway and he was, like, loser cubed, would be put in charge of paddling the canoe used for transporting excrement to the Environmentally Correct Place of Waste Disposal, and on a long journey, both he and the shit-laden canoe would become, if possible, even less desirable as company. Thus mothers threatened their children, “Behave yourself or one day you will paddle shit-canoe,” and people who were universally loathed were referred to as “shit-canoe propulsion units.” In the fullness of time, as the mountain men entered the territory, this custom so impressed them that, in between growing magnificent beards and befriending wolves, they translated and adopted the terminology, and so it spread into the general American culture, along with Taiwanese dream catchers, paintings of half-naked guys in the snow talking to bears, invocations of the Earth Spirit written by fifth graders for extra credit, and many other features of Whoopie Ti Yi Yo culture.

  36. Count me in as one of the minority who read “shitcanoes” as the plural of “shitcano”. At a quick glance, it only appeared in the plural form. I also think you should retcon that and invent “shitcano” instead (or in addition to).

  37. I did think a ‘canoe full of shit’ was worthwhile; but then a ‘canoe traversing shit’ was in fact a better metaphor – aka something tenable crossing over a load of BS and KEEPING clean :) aka NOT coming down to the s**t level :)

    Lovely idea btw! Hope it does get adopted by the OED!

  38. “A canoe filled with shit.” Sounds about right to me. We are talking about people full of shit, after all. But I don’t see why it can’t be all three. It might be redundant but who cares? “A canoe made of shit, filled with shit, on a river of shit, trying to cross between one shore made of shit and another made of more shit.”

  39. I misread it in your previous post as “Shitcano”, so that’s my vote. Alex’s description of a shitcano is pretty accurate.

  40. Well, since I define “asshole” as someone whose every action stinks I’ll have to go with “shitcanoe” being someone whose very /presence/ stinks.

  41. I have voted. Out of loyalty to you. But, yeah. Really? Krissy, why do you let him do this stuff? Athena, sit down and talk with your Dad. Show him the way out of this … shitcanoe.

  42. Clearly, it’s a unit of metric measurement regarding volumes of shit. The little brother of the boat load.

  43. I’m with a few of the others who misinterpreted it the first time… I was thinking you meant shit volcano, and I was terrified Syfy was going to steal your idea.

  44. If a canoe was made of shit, filled with shit and used to transverse shit, I’m pretty sure it would just dissolve into a pile of shit and lose its canoe attributes entirely.

  45. If a shitcanoe refers to a person, then it would be the equivalent of an asshole, which means that it is a canoe filled with shit.

    But, if people want to give the word a second meaning, I would say using shitcanoe to describe a disastrous mess would be a good one. Or shitcano. Maybe that could be the definition for shitcano.

  46. Logically speaking, isn’t a shitcanoe just a canoe that’s, well, not very good as a canoe? So that would probably include one that’s fabricated out of shit, and maybe one full of it too… or as they say in County Limerick,

    A shitcanoe’s just a canoe,
    That can’t do what good canoes do;
    So including, to wit,
    One that’s made out of shit,
    And another that’s full of it too.

  47. Canoe is from Arawakan canaoua which referred to a dugout boat. I’m going to say a shitcanoe is made from shit, but that you have to remove a lot of shit from it to get any use out of it. Still not a pleasant experience, but possibly some utility if you can make it less full of shit.

  48. With regard to traversing the proverbial creek: When shitcanoes are about, all creeks are shit creek. They’re what makes an otherwise pristine mountain stream seem a raging torrent of faeces.

  49. A shitcanoe is a person who, instead of using their mind like a canoe, for fun, recreation, work and exercise, fills their mind canoe with shit with the intent of spreading it around as wide and far as possible. The main problem with being a shitcanoe is that rather than delivering the shit to others you mostly get it on yourself and spread it around your own environs. Shitcanoes generally muck about in shit so much that they no longer notice the smell and how it has become their own personal musk, nor how it has been ground into their own skin. They therefore they lose the ability to be repulsed by shit and eventually begin to seek it out for pleasure and familiarity and are surprised that others find the whole enterprise abhorrent.

  50. One of our friends coined the phrase “shit-filled douchecanoe”, which refers to someone whose company you really don’t appreciate. Maybe “shitcanoe” is an upgrade to this, just cutting out the middleman?

  51. Since shitcanoe has started the trend of watercraft mixed with excrement, we can look forward to ….

    shitsubmarine and (of course)

    Battleshit (a tip of the hat to Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

  52. I don’t really have an opinion on the definition of shitcanoe. I’ll leave that to the experts. But I couldn’t resist doling out “POINTS!” to John Barnes on his most excellent essay.

  53. I also appreciate ‘shitcano’, being a mountain spewing excrement. Don’t let the Sci-Fi channel get hold of that concept, however. “Sharknado vs. Shitcano: it all goes to crap.”

  54. When I first saw “shitcanoes” I thought shitcanoe = vessel made of and containing shit. However, I’m becoming increasingly fond of the shitcano interpretation – something that spews shit and ruins everything.

  55. I’m thinking a canoe filled with fecal matter myself.

    Maybe that’s just because I live in the Great White North where we actually have a Mr. Canoe-head…

  56. A canoe full of shitheads, or as I’ve been know to say in the presence of my children: Poopheads. (They are teens and have heard much, much worse, but I’m trying to be a role model. Of course a REAL role model would not be calling people poopheads. much less shitheads.) Because sometimes people just have their heads up their fannies.

  57. I vote for “shitcano” too. All the uses of the word in the original post were plural, so whether it was “~canoe” or “~cano” was ambiguous, and “shitcano” was how I read it.

  58. I originally voted for “vessel filled with shit”. But after reading comments I have to say I really like the idea of creating a verb to describe the process of having to trawl through other people’s shit!

    You know it’s a good day on Whatever when the comments start sprouting limericks and folklore… :)

  59. Noun: 1. A canoe made of shit, filled with shit that was shat out into a pristine brook by a spiteful moose.

    2. A douchewaffle that goes that extra mile/kilometer.

  60. And how shall the collective of shitcanoes be known?

    a shiver of shitcanoes
    a flush of shitcanoes
    a congress of shitcanoes ?

  61. A smarmy asshat who constantly blathers on about “reverse blankism” and blames every single problem in, usually but not always, his life on anyone more marginalized than he. Backs up claims of superiority with pseudo-science, imaginary history, and/or religious teachings. Literally “One who, through immensely ridiculous claims, causes others to soil themselves lolsobbing”.

  62. Shitcanoe, a vessel for the purpose of delivering shit. Under the erroneous impression that other people require more shit in their lives. And/or the mistaken belief that the thing being delivered is something useful and not actually shit.

    As in, “I need all you gamma rabbits to understand the following….”

    Oh look, its the shitcanoe with another delivery!

  63. It should be noted that ‘shitcanoe’ should not be confused with the more conventional ‘shitgnu,’ a colloquial, if course, term that, as you know, refers to someone worthy only of contempt, or a bad release of an OS.

  64. I voted for other. When hollered out loud, it sounds like a volumetric term. Like that guy’s ideas are a shitcanoe of wrong. In the same frame of mind as a shitload of stuff.

  65. I will also confess to a certain fondness for shit + volcano, but sadly, the extra “e” on the end prevents me from throwing my support behind that definition. Also, the fact that it wasn’t an option provided. I don’t do write-ins — it’s throwing away my vote.

  66. The visual I got is the shape of a dog turd after you accidentally step on it. So “shitcanoe” is the resultant dog turd plus its context i.e. the smell, having to scrape that shit off your (inevitably) best pair of shoes, and the asshole who couldn’t pick up after his dog in the first place.

  67. A canoe to traverse a body of shit, but in a very specific context – the person lives in a shit world and thinks shit thoughts and is so comfortable and at home being in and around shit that they are perfectly suited for traveling through it. Literally made for and excelling at getting around shit, which is appropriately where they spend most of their time.

  68. Thank you for an alternative to the endless douche+noun terms. Anything that that foul doesn’t deserve to be close to anyone’s lady parts.

  69. First time I saw the word, it was plural: “shitcanoes”. I didn’t read it as “shit-can-OOHS — boats made/filled with shit”. I read it as “shit-CANE-ohs — giant, exploding mountains of shit.” That lead me to some really unfortunate thoughts about clouds of ash and rivers of lava.

  70. I, too, parsed it as “volcanos that spew massive amounts of shit”, which to me seemed particularly apt.

  71. So now for my obligatory pedantic remark. @ stringmonkey, there is no way it should be legal to sell douches. They are dangerous. They were created soley to illustrate to cis women that our genetalia are disgusting, and when they have access to a cervix they can cause, among other things, uterine infections. I think calling misogynists “douche anything” is particularly apt.

  72. @ Shaun–I’m no fan of the “hygienic” douche, either. But in popular parlance, they are associated with female genitalia.

  73. For my money, Becca Stareyes and Phuka have won the internets with their definitions.

  74. This one goes immediately into the swearing dictionary. I love it and can think of a variety of ways in which I may use it. Best of all, anyone who does not read your blog will have to guess what I mean when I use it.

  75. Shitcanoe. Literally, a turd. As in, I got me a shitcanoe to send down the river, if you know what I mean. Metaphorically, someone who behaves in a distinctly (di-stinked-ly?) shitty manner. As in, Dudebro’s a real shitcanoe. In this latter sense, it could refer to a canoe made of shit, filled with shit, and meant to traverse a river of shit, because that, as we all know, is what it takes to be a shitcanoe.

  76. I voted for a canoe filled with shit because, much like the human to whom it applies, if one sees only the exterior, one might assume that it was a perfectly pleasant and civil canoe. Once one sees the interior, however…

  77. @martin, @rheather, @kat and all others,
    I’m very glad it’s not just me, although I do like Melanie M’s reductive definition…just a turd.

  78. Herm. If I thought of “shitcanoe” I’d assume it was just a really, really crappy canoe, one that’s always at risk of swamping.

    For a *person* to be a “shitcanoe” it would depend.

    If they’re supposed to perform a function, I’d say “a terrible canoe when you’re up shit creek”.

    Otherwise, it’d be a canoe full of shit.

  79. I’m with the crowd that read it as a shit volcano. I find that a strangely more compelling analogy than the canoe thing.

  80. A canoe made of shit. Item: Shithead. You think of shit in the shape of a head, not a head with shit for brains, or a head surrounded by shit.

  81. I initially went another direction with it. Shitcanoe – the vessel by which you fail to navigate shit creek, often without a paddle. Your definition and usage are less predictable. That’s what keeps me coming back to your blog. I will now be referring to certain unsavory people as shitcanoes.

  82. As alluded to above, those definitions of shitcanoe could be Good Things in the right situation:

    Canoe made of shit – the canoe of last resort; when no other canoe-crafting material is available; mainly for appearances, rather than actual canoeing

    Canoe filled with shit – the sewage-barge of last resort; a tidy way of getting rid of a canoes-worth of shit

    Canoe traversing a body of shit – better than swimming, no?

    The correct definition of shitcanoe is, of course, someone who takes a shit in the middle of a canoe, offending fellow canoeists in said vessel, as well as future canoeists trying to use it. This demonstrates the general disgust and contempt that is a shitcanoe’s due.

  83. I think it’s fair to say that a shitcanoe (shit ka NEW) quickly becomes a shitcano (shit KAY no) when they start spewing forth whatever worthless drivel they think is warranted in a conversation.

  84. To me a shitcanoe is the civilian analog to a walking eagle. Full of shit, not made of it. Even “not nice” human beings are still human. (of note – I’m pretty sure the “Walking eagle” reference pre-dates the internet sources (Snopes) that cite it as a political disparagement. Items I read before the internet used it to refer to incompetent Colonels in the military)

  85. “Shitcanoe” stems, of course, from the days of the first European trading posts on the continent. Given the lack of wood around the Prairies’ seasonal trading posts, the first French and English traders would go out and canoe on the river until they found droppings left by buffalo herds, which they would gather to be dried and used as fuel.

    Clearly, this activity had consequences on the general pleasantness of the canoe, so the traders tended to reserve a specific canoe to that usage, called a “shitcanoe”, and use another, regular old canoe for other activities.

    Hence the shitcanoe, a thing of such unpleasantness that you would rather forget it exists, but which you are unfortunately forced to deal with every once in a while.

  86. In Maine, where many canoes go to die of old age, the term is often used to describe a lousy canoe. One past its prime, or even just new and made by Coleman.

  87. A canoe without a paddle.

    BTW I’d much rather be up the creek without a paddle than down the creek without a paddle. From upcreek I can drift with the shitcurrent.

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