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I recently used the phrase "doesn't count for squat" (meaning worthless) in a StackExchange comment, and then wondered if I was being impolite.

I considered if "squat" was just a euphemism for "shit", then I probably should find another expression for polite company. (I wouldn't say to someone "it isn't worth jack" in polite company, for the same reason.)

Related: Where did the phrase "diddly-squat" come from?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Impoliteness is a contextual thing. If you are telling a stranger on a website that their contribution is worthless, then people take that as impoliteness regardless how you phrase it (I have found)

e.g.

Thanks for taking the time to answer, but this question has been comprehensively answered by other posts, so you're not really adding anything. You might find your efforts better placed on newer questions.

On the otherhand if you're reassuring someone, e.g.

Don't worry about it, driving offences don't count for squat when applying for accountancy jobs.

then it's not impolite.

Squat is more of a euphemism for nothing than it is shit since shit itself is euphemism for nothing, albeit an intensified one.

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I understand your point about the context - the word "No" could be considered impolite in some circumstances, but it is not a word you would avoid saying in front of children. Your argument about "squat" really being a euphemism for "nothing" could also be applied to "isn't worth jack", and yet, in that context, "jack" is clearly short for "jack shit". –  Oddthinking Jan 2 '12 at 14:26
    
This is a matter of opinion then. I would not feel uneasy about saying "It's not worth jack" in front of children. Especially since jack is slang for money. (7th noun definition, needs to be revealed) –  Matt Эллен Jan 2 '12 at 14:30
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Though doesn't count for a squat as such isn't all that being impolite, but it sounds such. I would recommend as useless as a fifth wheel or doesn't for a fifth wheel. I believe the latter is seldom used compared to the former expression.

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