shoot the shit

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(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)

Shoot the shit is a variation of shoot the breeze. Both of these expressions mean “to chat idly just to pass the time.” A form of shoot the breeze is recorded in a poem written during World War I by a US private, who described his corporals as sociable men who were much better at “breeze-shooting” than fighting or doing actual work. It doesn’t require much skill or effort to hit the wind with a gun, so the expression goes.

Shoot the shit emerges in the 1940s, notably found in a letter by the author Norman Mailer. The shit, here, may be a more intensive and alliterative substitute for breeze, with shit meaning “stuff,” i.e., any old topic. Ever the shit-talker, the character Holden Caulfield used a milder take on the expression, shoot the crap, in J.D. Salinger’s 1951 The Catcher in the Rye.


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shoot the shit (third-person singular simple present shoots the shit, present participle shooting the shit, simple past and past participle shot the shit)

  1. (slang, vulgar) To chat casually; to gossip.
    We didn't do much besides stand around and shoot the shit, but it was fun to see him again.