Having a crap day? Let Tim Bowen cheer you up with his explanation of the origin and varied meanings of this impolite word.

Please note: crap is an impolite term.

The boss of a chain of cheap jewellery stores once famously described the products his company sold as crap. This comment left the Stock Exchange deeply unimpressed and as a result the value of the company’s shares plunged and the aforementioned boss was sacked by the shareholders. In this sense crap can be either a noun or an adjective. An example of the first use is “You wouldn’t believe the amount of crap he’s got in his room”, meaning 'rubbish' or 'useless' things, while an example of the second would be “He’s a crap driver”, meaning 'of very poor quality'. It can also mean 'nonsense', as in “He was talking crap”.

Crap can also be used as one of the synonyms for faeces (and as a related verb) and it is this use that gave rise to a myth about the origin of the word. A 19th century plumber called Thomas Crapper founded a company that became very successful in selling porcelain toilets and the name Crapper was usually stamped in a highly visible place on each one. It might seem a plausible story but crap was around long before Thomas Crapper. It derives from a Dutch word meaning the residue left from rendering beer dregs.