phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Don't shit where you eat

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 09, 2009 at 02:05

In Reply to: Re: Don't shit where you eat posted by Graham Cambray on March 08, 2009 at 18:57:

: : : : : : : : : The saying goes, "don't shit where you eat." What does it mean and where does it come from?

: : : : : : : : ---------

: : : : : : : : I think it advises against affairs at work. A Yorkshire version is "Never shit on tha own doorstep". A politer version is "Don't make honey where you make money". I can't give you an origin for the phrase, but will have a little search if and when time allows. Or maybe the alternatives above will help others to help with this. A limited contribution, I'm afraid. (GC)

: : : : : : : --------

: : : : : : : At http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0707A&L=ads-l&P=8100 we have:
: : : : : : : 'B. J. Whiting's _Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings_ gives "Don't shit where you eat" from 1953, Bellow's _Adventures of Auggie March_. Variants of the image include "shit where you sit," "shit on your own doorstep," and the probably-euphemistic "be sick in one's own hat" (the last one, in Whiting's collection, from 1937). All are probably related to the much older conceit about fowls' not fouling their own nest.'

: : : : : : : A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, by Eric Partridge, Paul Beale has:
: : : : : : : 'Never shit where you eat! A semi-proverbial [admonition] against carrying on sexual intrigues at one's place of employment. A milder version is :don't buy your candy where you buy your groceries". Both from 1940s or earlier. And both US. The earthy Brit equivalent is "(you) don't (or never) shit on your own doorstep!

: : : : : : : The Shorter Dictionary of Catch Phrases, by Rosalind Fergusson, Eric Partridge, Paul Beale has:
: : : : : : : Don't shit on your own doorstep (,you). A warning against carrying on sexual intrigues at one's place of work, residence, etc. Late 19th-20th centuries. The US equivalent is "never shit where you eat".
: : : : : : : (GC)

: : : : : : Don't get your meat where you eat. And expanding on the theme: "But if you're gonna cheat on me don't cheat in our hometown."

: : : : : My first reaction to this expression would be to think that it's admonishing one never to put the toilet in the kitchen. Actually, it resembles the admonition often given to cat-owners (of which I am one) never to put the litter-box too close to the food dishes.

: : : : : I suppose you could find it analogous to the axiom, true or not, that hunters don't prey too close to home (to their nest or to their den). I first heard that in regard to eagles.

: : : : : Or it could mean something like "Don't foul your own nest."

: : : : : I've never heard this axiom or adage or admonition phrased or spoken this way. Why would anyone regard sexual intercourse as analogous to emptying one's bowels? I find both the concept and the form of expression repugnant in the extreme, and I wish it would go back to wherever it came from.
: : : : : SS

: : : : "But Love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement." - Yeats (GC)

: : : Well, let me float a theory. It isn't the act of love (or lust) that is being compared to a BM. But the mess of love gone wrong. You want to keep that out of the workplace. (Is now a good time to say I married a coworker?)

: : ESC's idea makes sense to me, particularly as "love gone wrong," or even love gone right, can lead to unemployment if the boss finds out. ~rb

: As a noun, "shit" ssems to have more slang meanings than you can shake a stick at. But as a verb, meanings are more limited. I'm in the UK, and the usage I'm thinking of is one I've only come across in the US, but I wonder if deceit
: or lying comes into this? "Don't you shit me, man!" is the usage I'm thinking of. Does this make any sense to those on the far side of the Pond? Hard to carry on an affair at work without a degree of lying about it. (GC)

I'm familiar, as every American probably is, with the usa ge to which Graham refers. The OED cites it from "The Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller , who was, of course, American. "Carl looks at me in despair. 'Is he shitting me, that bastard?'" As a verb, the word can mean to lie to one, to deceive, to try to deceive, to pull one's leg. The last meaning is not listed in the OED, but that's one way I think it can be taken in the expression, "What, are you shitting me, man?" It depends somewhat on context, of course.

However, I think this has nothing at all to do with shitting where you eat.
SS