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I was reading a short story when I stumbled across the following sentence.

"[H]e overheard his dad say it wasn’t worth its price in shit."

I was a bit surprised with the negation. I'm used to the following use of the phrase:

"It is worth its price in shit."

I understand it like: "The price you pay for it is fairly low compared to its value." But in the sentence from the story, I get a bit confused. Should it be considered like double negation? The father is not happy with the price that he wants to stick in a "swear-word" somewhere in the sentence, no matter what... Or am I missing something subtle here?

I couldn't find the meaning of "in shit" via Google. The only idiom I could find is "happier than a pig in shit", which obviously has nothing to do with the use I quoted.

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Shit is not particularly valuable in most circumstances. It's worth is very little. If something is not worth something else it is less valuable therefore worth even less. If something is not worth shit, it is not worth much at all. It literally has less worth than shit. 'Invaluable' on the other hand is a different question altogether. –  Mitch Sep 9 '13 at 11:59
    
I understand the phrase "not worth shit"; but I asked about "not worth its price in shit". They may mean the same thing, but they are different phrases. –  canpolat Sep 9 '13 at 12:43
    
Price tells you how much something is worth. The two ways of saying it mean the same thing. –  Mitch Sep 9 '13 at 12:51
    
And that's why I said "They may mean the same thing, but they are different phrases." –  canpolat Sep 9 '13 at 12:56
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Wasn't worth its price in shit" coming from a more common phrase "Not worth its weight in shit" - the author substituted weight for price. Not sure if he was doing this unintentionally or if he was just trying to convey random speech patterns.

Basically it means its not worth shit.

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Thank you. Does that mean "It is worth its price in shit." doesn't make any sense then? –  canpolat Sep 9 '13 at 7:23
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“It is worth its price in shit” does not make any sense to me. I would probably understand it to mean basically the same thing as the negated version, but it would make me pause because it’s so odd. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '13 at 8:15
    
Thanks for the explanation :) –  canpolat Sep 9 '13 at 8:41
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I think it's a corruption of "It's worth its weight in gold."

The 'shit' comes in as a result of the fact that in strong slang, a near opposite is often substituted to convey extra emotion.

E.g., That skateboarder's moves are sick. I could care less (as opposed to I couldn't care less).

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The author may have been alluding to the fact that shit may actually have a price, as in currently purchasing manure or historically the collectors of dog shit for the use by the tanning industries. If the story had a modern counter culture basis then the "shit" may have been some drug type depending on the larger context.

There may have also been a usage to imply that there was significant fall out resulting from a given action as an abbreviated form of "this wasn't worth the shit I am catching as a result" again depending on the larger context.

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