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This derogatory term recently exploded on the U.S. scene with its application to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump. Its arrival is so recent the Urban Dictionary has only a recent definition and one that seems to me not to connote the true depths of the intended insult:

General insult....moron, idiot, Donald Trump in particular. (Origin: Scotland)
We voted to remain, you incomprehensible shitgibbon!

Google Books Ngram Viewer gives zero hits. Perhaps some folks from Scotland and the rest of the U.K. could fill us in? It is such an inspired term that it seems to beg for a rich and diverse history and usage.

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My Scottish perspective on Shitgibbon

There are a couple of threads to this particular insult.
In Scotland, and I am sure in other places, we love a good, complex, overblown insult. A proper insult should be entertaining for listeners as well as offensive to the target. This is apparently the tail end of the noble Scottish tradition of Flyting, which was similar in form and function to modern Rap Battles.
While this example can be seen as one-sided in that Trump is merely the object of the insult rather than a participant in an exchange, he is seen as a fair target due to:

  • He was mischaracterising events in Scotland at the time

  • He has a tendency to don Scottishness when he thinks it plays to his advantage while attempting to treat Scotland and its systems of planning and governance as his personal playthings

The other thread is the insult itself. ‘Shitgibbon’ references the storied practice of chimps of throwing their faeces around. The phrase is deployed in allusion to the perceived quality of Trump’s debating skills and political grace, though the reality of the ape-practice apparently undermines the image by being a sign of intelligence - opinions differ on whether Trump is a smart guy playing dumb or not. This blog perfectly captures the idea, while sadly being unaware of the term. https://musteryou.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/just-the-usual-apes-throwing-shit/

UPDATE: Well it turns out that the guy who wrote the tweet is not Scottish and perhaps had little of that in mind when he wrote it. I'm leaving it here though, because I think it still represents how it was understood by the Scottish-Indy-minded section of Twitter, of which I am a habitue, where it was widely circulated prior to going viral/global. I suspect that the retweet that set things off may have been someone like Wings Over Scotland

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    Shitbiggon didn’t “explode” in the US during the 2016 presidential campaigns. I’ve never heard that term before reading this. At the very least, it didn’t hit the mainstream. Source: Me being a native US English speaker of 47 years and a political junkie. – iMerchant Oct 13 '17 at 11:02
  • @iMerchant Then you issue is with KWinker who made that claim. I was already aware of it circulating in a limited sphere and took KW’s assertion as read. – Spagirl Oct 13 '17 at 11:55
37

"Shitgibbon" appears to be an insult recently invented and posted in a twitter message:

  • Scotland voted to stay & plan on a second referendum, you tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon. … 12:59 PM - 24 Jun 2016

The reference to a common insult "shit" and a "monkey" probably creates the desired effect. (The idea is that the person to which the insult is directed is supposed to look like a gibbon probably for the color of the hair)

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    There's something about "shitgibbon" that makes it flow better than "shitmonkey". I think it's in the sound, but the rarer word adds to the absurdity (plus "monkey" in insulting language is rather different). – Chris H Aug 3 '16 at 9:20
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    @ChrisH I agree. Probably the assonance between /shit/ and /gib/. – GoldenGremlin Aug 3 '16 at 12:49
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    @Silenus which fits with the excellent "cockwomble" as well. – Chris H Aug 3 '16 at 12:51
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    Thanks for introducing me to the Language Log. Very funny and informative. – camden_kid Aug 4 '16 at 16:33
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    Shitgibbon is far from recently invented. It predates that 2016 tweet, and predates Twitter itself; it dates at least to the British Usenet bootlegging scene of 2000: english.stackexchange.com/a/342406/9001 – Hugo Aug 12 '16 at 5:49
8

The insult shitgibbon predates Twitter.

Searching Usenet, I found several examples from 2000 and 2001 from the British bootlegging scene, where people would record the audio (and sometimes video) of a gig, and then arrange trades of tapes with other bootleggers and fans.

A shitgibbon was someone who trades copies and doesn't appreciate the effort it takes to record a concert. Two of these three examples are from the same person (and possibly the third too).

2000 March 21, EvilJam32, “Re: Shall I film the Hip in London 8th June?”, in alt.music.tragically-hip:

It's clear that some of you expect others to do the hard work for you (ie filming)then belly-ache nauseatingly when you're asked to cough-up for it! .As for taping,I totally endorse taping trees and suchlike but franky audio-ing is a piece of piss compared to filming and 99% of filmers will only trade with other filmers.Why should lazy so-and-sos like you get copies of our tapes for free? But if you really baulk at buying videos,I'll tell you what,I will film the London show but because I don't want to be accused of bering mercenary,i'll keep the tape to myself-no sales,no trades.Good luck and goodbye to the most sick-making,hypocritical bunch of shitgibbons i've yet encountered on the Web!

2000 November 28, Master8 uk, “Re: MORRISSEY- "Battersea Park" 1997 VIDEO!”, in alt.music.morrissey:

[in response to an offer to sell a bootleg for $20 or trade]

get the f*ck off this newsgroup,shitgibbon!!

2001 September 26, Master8 uk, “Re: good trader: LIVIDZ”, in alt.music.bootlegs:

>But his prices are a bit high.

So they should be,when he's the feller "what" films them.If you want cheap then feel free to buy from any one of 10,000 shitgibbons out there "who film from their computer keyboards" (as it were) thereby saving so much $$,that they can cut you a GREAT deal for a 4th gen mastepiece!

4

The word in question is a "portmanteau".

port·man·teau

2: a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog) - merriam-webster

portmanteau word ‎(plural portmanteau words)

(linguistics) A word which combines the meaning of two words (or, rarely, more than two words), formed by combining the words, usually, but not always, by adjoining the first part of one word and the last part of the other, the adjoining parts often having a common vowel.

In recent years, it's been quite common usage in the North of England and Scotland to create bespoke portmanteau 'swears', especially where Mr Trump is concerned.

Twatwaffle, Cockbadger and Fucktrumpet are all regularly used as terms of abuse on Twitter.

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    In what way are any of your examples 'blending' ? – AakashM Aug 3 '16 at 12:47
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    Nope, not portmanteaus at all. These neologisms are just compound words. Portmanteau words take the front part of one word and affix the rear part of the second word (i.e. "motel" from "motor hotel" and "brunch" from "breakfast" and "lunch") – Klay Aug 3 '16 at 17:30
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    +1. As other comments point out, shitgibbon isn’t a portmanteau sensu stricto. But the more general observation — that while shitgibbon itself wasn’t a pre-existing term, it’s part of a well-established and quite specific style of compound-formation for insults — is a good and important one, that’s not currently included in any other answers. – PLL Aug 3 '16 at 21:29
2

Invented insults have a reasonable history in English, but we currently seem to be on an uptick. "Shitgibbon" is one such; you may also have seen "cockwomble" recently.

They're interesting in that they don't particularly relate to any characteristic of the person. Similar insults such as "fuckwit" or "dickhead" are clearly insulting the person's intelligence, or "cuntface" insulting their looks. If you just want good unbridled vulgarity though, there's no need to base your insults on anything!

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    I remember when studying ethology many decades ago, in the context of apes learning sign language we heard of a chimp who devised a sign combination of "shit" and "monkey" to refer to another study subject who was annoying her. – DrSpleen Aug 4 '16 at 18:36
  • @DrSpleen: I don't care about the truth, from now on I know the word "shitmonkey" is loaned from the chimpanzee. – RemcoGerlich Aug 5 '16 at 7:46
-1

Coined by @metalollie on Twitter, this gentleman is avowedly English, not Scottish. Scotland voted to stay & plan on a second referendum, you tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon. https://t.co/iKyEIxf8ej (https://twitter.com/MetalOllie/status/746296745081061376?s=03)

protected by tchrist Feb 5 '17 at 0:17

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