my Life

Saturday, Feb 24, 2024 Last update: 07-12-21
Font size:
search |  Register to receive updates
I was once described as - built like a brick shithouse. Lo and behold, it may have been true. However before anyone takes offense about something that happened 35, 60 years ago, be it my body or another's blackface, let's look at the history, usage and meaning behind this comment.

MEANING: "To be built like a brick shithouse, said of man, means to be very solidly built and muscular. When a woman is said to be built like a brick shithouse, it means she has a very shapely figure... This USAGE confuses many who cannot imagine how it could be a compliment to refer to a woman as being similar to a 'shithouse.' Like many idioms, it does not need to make literal sense to those who use it." (See figurative allusion)

Believe it or not, there is such thing as a brick shithouse. In the second picture you can see a brick outhouse at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s second home.

“These buildings, used before indoor plumbing was common, covered one or more toilets which were usually nothing more than holes or latrines dug in the ground. The buildings were usually built cheaply out of odd bits of wood. An outhouse built out of brick, therefore, would be one that was much more well-built than usual, hence the allusion in the idiom. So, to be built like a brick shithouse is to be better built (in terms of physique or figure) than usual. In either case, despite the derogatory reference, the expression is meant as a compliment. It originated as early as the 1930’s and was quite common until the 1950’s. In the American South, the expression was often embellished, e.g. ‘built like a brick shithouse with hot and cold running water.’ ”

It’s helpful to know the source of something and critically important to teach history in the US rather than just relying on spurious revisionism.
Context is also what we should be looking for.

No one goes to a party to make himself or others miserable. It's my sense that Governor Northam, 35 years ago wanted to release the constraints of being white, upright and intellectual, to say nothing of his long grueling hours of medical studies.
To wear blackface is not an excoriation of Black people. Imitation of Michael Jackson in costume or make up is an acknowledgement of Jackson extraordinary talent.

Are we not wandering off course in America, spending so much time protesting? It all begins to sound very much like the McCarthy era. The consequences being a kind of counter lynching which has upended the politics in Virginia with its victims forced into fashionable mea culpas that make no sense.

Tabloid embarrassments are enthralling, often followed by an eagerness to take sides. It is so easy to cast the first stone.

Let us note that the act of pushing against can throw more than a monkey wrench into a life's plan. Pushing against attracts the very thing most reviled.

I think of the grace and dignity with which Nancy Pelosi presides over her Democratic colleagues, no matter what factual distortions and verbal ugliness is thrown her way. Observe, she does not step in it.

Who cares if Elizabeth Warren is 1/16, 100% or 0% Native American. She is the one person most in a principled position as a highly awarded Harvard professor to do what Obama failed to do, bring the divide between rich and poor into a fairer balance.

As for the context of what happened 35 years ago.
The person that compared me to a brick shithouse does not need to be forgiven. It was meant as a compliment.