On livejournal.com there is a transcript which seems unclear.

(fish) me! remember the fish came home in a baggy loved me for 2 weeks and then nothing
(girl) the fish is talking!
(cat) well sure he can talk but is saying anything? no not really no
(fish) HEY socks can it. this cat should not be here, he should not be about he should ot be here when your mother is out

However to make sure I wasn't mistaken, I found in the CORPUS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ENGLISH the 'same' transcript.

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Where "Can it!" is highlighted.

After searching in several on-line dictionaries, I cannot find the definition of "Can it!" as used there.

Can anybody explain, providing a more clear example of its usage?

  • 1
    This is a perfectly valid question, but be careful with transcripts of chat rooms (or other transcripts, really) - they're particularly prone to slang, non-standard usage, and plenty that's just wrong. (Duly noted that you checked COCA - good job on doing so, and on telling us that you did. I don't think it's all-caps in the non-abbreviated version, though.)
    – hunter2
    Jul 26 '13 at 10:03

The original, literal sense is “to preserve (food) in a can”. Derived from this meaning is the secondary meaning of “stuffing away” or even “firing (from a job)”.

This particular phrase is a highly idiomatic one meaning, “Shut up!”—basically, you’re saying, “Take whatever it is you’re saying, put it into a can, and seal/preserve it there, out of my earshot!”

Oxford Dictionaries definition

  • I was about to downvote your answer until I got to the 2nd paragraph. Good job on tying together "Shut up!" and "Can it!" :-) Jul 25 '13 at 20:07

I hate to say this, since I prefer decorous language to gutter lingo, but "Can it!" is a shortened and more decorous way to say "Shit can it!" or "Take what you're saying and throw it into the shit can!" because that's all it's worth. It has absolutely nothing to do with food preservation.

You know what SNAFU and FUBAR stand for, right? "Situation Normal: All Fouled Up" and "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition". Except that the "F" actually originally stood for some other word, a word which we avoid using in polite conversation.

Same deal with "Can It!"

  • 5
    I don't believe this for one minute. To "shit-can" [something] appears to be a very recent coinage, but "can it" goes back to at least 1930 Jul 25 '13 at 21:24
  • Well, I believe this for at least three minutes. Jul 26 '13 at 16:08
  • Yeah, well, you probably still believe that Sweet F.A. is a euphemism for Fuck All - but it ain't Jul 26 '13 at 16:35
  • Well, I might have believed that, IF I had ever heard of it before. I am such an innocent old fart. Jul 29 '13 at 17:30
  • 1
    In addition to @FumbleFingers’ point, it might be mentioned that the earliest citation the OED has for ‘shitcan’ is 1948, while the specific meaning “to stop, leave off something; to ‘cut out’” of the verb ‘can’ is from 1906, more than 40 years earlier. In addition, ‘can’ was used in this sense at least as early as 1920 by British writers and is common in contemporary British English, whereas ‘shitcan’ is (to this day) rare in British English, both as a noun and as a verb. All this points to ‘shitcan it’ being a later extension of ‘can it’, rather than the other way around. Sep 17 '13 at 7:33

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