Is “Crap” a Bad Word?
In the hierarchy of profanity (or vulgarity), the word “crap” is pretty low. It’s probably not quite as bad as “damn” but a little worse than “hell,” depending on the context.
Times have changed. When I was a kid, “crap” was higher up on the list. It wasn’t as bad as “sh*t,” but it was still pretty bad. “Sh*t” was what you said when you accidentally bonked your head against a cabinet door. “Crap” was what you said when you forgot something but could easily go back and get it .
Either way, I would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap. Looking back, getting punished for saying “crap” ticks me off so much that I even wrote this ebook about it.
THE MEANING OF CRAP
Kids today think “crap” means “stuff,” or “stuff of low quality.” I don’t think they realize that “crap” is/was the kinder, gentler version of “sh*t.” When I tried to explain to some friends of my kids why “crap” was vulgar (I was the chaperone in a public place), I ended up engaged in a circular argument.
“’Crap is a bad word?” a friend of my daughter said loudly in public.
“Yes,” I tried to explain. “It’s a word you should not say out loud in public.”
“I say ‘crap’ all the time,” my daughter’s friend blurted out.
“Maybe you do, but please don’t say it around us.”
“Why can’t I say ‘crap’ around you?”
“Because ‘crap’ is a mild form of profanity, and you’re too young to say it.”
“‘Crap’ is a bad word?”
“Yes! Now stop saying ‘CRAP,’ YOU LITTLE SH*T!”
I try to be patient, but when I snap, I go all out.
I was probably fighting a losing battle. And maybe I shouldn’t have been fighting it at all. If “crap” is losing its vulgarity, it doesn’t affect my life at all. If all vulgar words lost their vulgarity, then I wouldn’t have to keep a checklist of what my kids (and their friends) can’t say around me.
WHAT MAKES “CRAP” VULGAR?
That question could be asked about all profanity. The way I understand it, vulgarity comes down to syllables and body parts/functions. The root of almost every profane word and expression has one syllable. For example, “sh*t” and “crap” both have only one syllable, and both are synonyms for “defecate” (or “defecation”) which is not considered profane or vulgar.
Yes, “crappy” is two syllables, but the root word is “crap.” Yes, “crapfest” is two syllables, but the root word is “crap.” “Defecate” is three syllables, so it is automatically more sophisticated (and less vulgar) than “sh*t” or even “crap.”
WHY CRAP ISN’T VULGAR
The word “crap” (according to Merriam Webster) goes back all the way to Medieval Latin (crappa). Old French converted it “crappe” (It probably sounds elegant).
In its original form, “crappa” meant chaff or residue or waste. Somewhere along the way, “crap” went from trash waste to human waste. Trash isn’t vulgar. Chaff isn’t vulgar. But crap is vulgar. This is where “sh*t” and “crap” are different. From what I’ve researched (and I’m no linguist or etymologist, so I could be very wrong), “shit” has always meant defecate or defecation. Since one syllable words for body functions are often considered vulgar, it makes sense that “sh*t” would be considered profanity.
But “crap” originally meant residue or chaff or trash. The original definition (as I understand it) had little to do with a body function. So maybe (just maybe) “crap” shouldn’t be considered vulgar after all.
I’d love to go back in time and say “crap” in front of my mom and then explain to her why it isn’t vulgar.
Etymology or no etymology, I’d probably still get my mouth washed out.
IS CRAP VULGAR OR NOT?
I rarely change my mind about things anymore. My mind is pretty much set when it comes to politics, religion, and sports. I rarely even discuss a couple of those topics anymore because my (few) friendships are more important than my opinions, but I’ve just changed my mind about something.
All my life I’ve believed that “crap” was a (mildly) vulgar word. But since it did not originally mean “human waste,” then there’s no reason for it to be considered vulgar. “Crap” may be a clean word, and I admit that I may have been wrong all these years.
But I still won’t let my kids say it.
When I was a kid, I was punished for saying the word crap.
It ticked me off so much that I wrote this ebook, Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!
And here is the true story of my one moment of high school glory!