Posted by Doug Franklin on July 29, 2003
Hi. Im interested in expressions we use today that have their roots from centuries ago, but where the original meaning has been lost through time. I heard this little gem, & was wondering if anyone can verify if this is true or not.
In the days when sailing ships were opening up world trade routes, when commodities such as spices were worth as much as gold, (18th Century??) some ships would carry fertilizer. These ships would periodically explode & be lost at sea, & no one knew why. Once they realised the cause was due to a build up of methane gas in the hold (& probably some sailor with a lantern) they would stamp on the words "Ship High In Transit", so the ferilizer would be lashed to the decks & exposed to the fresh air, avoiding any methane build-up. These words became common in use, and were eventually abrreviated to S.H.I.T., hence the word we use today.
This does sounds plausible, but I would be interested in other peoples views on this.