You may have noticed that I have been saying sheeesh a lot lately. Actually, this is just a bastardisation of the above four-letter word which means crap or dung or whatever we old sailors often use in polite company. Perhaps we can be forgiven for taking liberties with the language when other "normal" people would not.
Someone sent me a light-hearted e-mail some time ago giving the supposedly true origin of this rude word as a nautical term, used when transporting manure as fertilizer deep in the holds of old sailing ships. The message claims that when manure gets wet, it produces methane gas, which can collect in the hold and blow up the ship when someone lights a candle or lantern. To prevent this, crates or sacks of dung were marked S.H.I.T., meaning "Ship High In Transit" to avoid contact with sea water. But I believe that this is also a lot of ... you-know-what.
My friend and fellow mariner Capt. Leibbrandt (you may have seen him playing colonial mat salleh types in some local made-for-TV movies) have confirmed that the word is indeed derived from the Olde English scitte and probably related to the Dutch word schijten, which means "diarrhoea'. Or the Malay equivalent cirit birit.
We are a little mealy-mouthed these days about the word, one of those classic Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, even though it is among the most common expletives known. When it first appeared, though, I believe there were no negative or vulgar associations or connotations about it and indeed some have even claimed that it is a truly pukka original golf term!