"A shit" instead of just "shit". Is this common usage?

In the movie Ted when John and Lori come home and find a turd on the floor, they say “is that a shit”. I found that odd. Around here someone would say “is that shit” not “is that a shit”.

In parts of the U.S. is it common to refer to a turd as “a shit” rather than just “shit”.

Not in my experience, at least not when referring to a turd. “Shit” is an unmeasured quantity: “That’s a lot of shit.” “What shit!”

“A shit” is either the act of sitting on the can and taking a dump, or something worthless. “He’s taking a shit.” “I don’t give a shit.”

One turd in the middle of the floor would be a turd, or a piece of shit, or just shit, but not “a shit.”

Ditto. It’s like walking into the kitchen and smelling something, and asking “Is that fish?” or “Is that a fish?”

The only way it makes sense is if they were trying to convey “Are we looking at the results of someone taking a shit?”

But that’s a stretch.

The idiom itself is a misnomer. You don’t take a shit – you leave a shit.

(Apologies to George Carlin)

It’s only a stretch if the person taking a shit was constipated. Yes ‘is that a shit’, means is that the result of someone taking a dump. Specifically the result of a single dump, traceable to a single act of defecation.

In my neck of the woods it’s not uncommon to refer to a person as “a shit” but much less so to refer to a turd that way.

In that context “shit” is a verb, used similarly to the word “nap”. You “take” a nap, do you not? You don’t leave a nap. Also, you take a meeting.

No, not common. I’ve never heard it that way. It’s usially either a turd, or some shit.

A person can be a shit, or the shit. The first usage means a bad thing, the second good.

A thing can be the shits. Always plural. That’s a bad thing.

I think there’s a difference in sense between shit and a shit. The latter is, like, “Is that a shit? Did somebody take a shit on our floor?”, the former, “Is that shit? Did somebody leave shit on our floor?”

In other words the act of actually taking a dump is implicit in a shit. Shit does not imply how the shit got there, it could have been brought in by hand, trailed in on a boot, whatever.

That’s my take anyway.

How many sugars would you like with that shit?

So…? Do we agree that the line should be “Is that shit?” “There is shit on my floor!” instead of “Is that a shit?” “there is a shit on my floor!”.

Does everyone find the line as read kind of odd in American English dialect as I do?

HERE is the scene.

(Possibly NSFW! And may offend.)

Well, maybe not. In this very specific case I’d say it’s correct either way.

There is shit on his floor BECAUSE SOMEONE [took] a shit on his floor. It’s the missing “took” that throws the delivery off. What tilts it towards being correct is not that there is fecal matter on his floor somehow (from someone’s shoe, being flung there, etc.) but because someone [took a] shit there.

The English, she is so subtle.

I’m not American, but “a shit” doesn’t sound odd to me. It’s one of those things where you know it when you see it. An amorphous blob of crap might be “shit”, but a nice, distinct turd might be “a shit”. Personally, I quite like the variety and extra description of “a shit”. You hear “a shit” instead of “shit” and you know you’ve ruled out a smear, for example, or even metaphorical shit. If it is slightly odd, so much the better, much like the phrase “What the shit?”

Linguistically, is this called “Container for the thing contained?” (Thurber fans may recognize this as a plot point…)

i.e., you don’t ask for “a water” but “a glass of water.” With feces, it might be “a lump of s…” or “a piece of s…” but rarely, “a s…”

But I’ve heard it that way upon occasion. One bloke once came running up with his hands held apart to indicate distance, and announced, "I just dropped a s… that big!

Put into a slightly different context, suppose a friend or acquaintance comes running into your room shouting, “There’s a shit on the front porch!”

Would you expect to find on your front porch:

  1. a despicable person
  2. a Jehovah’s Witness
  3. a turd
  4. a midget
  5. a person of the opposing political party
  6. an alien
  7. what then?

shit is a turd.

Mila Kunis, the lead actress in Ted, is Ukrainian and moved to the US when she was seven years old. Since, according to her, she learned English here it’s possible that she would still use terms like “a shit” as English isn’t her first language. That may be where the writers got it from and they liked how it sounded.

If you watch some early episodes of That 70’s Show, she does stumble over some words and occasionally her accent comes through. Since then she has apparently taken diction class and now while you never hear her speak in lengthy sentences of monologues in films, her English is unaccented.

IMO, this is a very important question that deserves to be fully explored and explained and I will get right on that just as soon as I finish taking a shit.

But the shit is not cooking on the stove - it’s lying on the floor in an apparently BM-sized amount.

If you saw something that looked like a fish on your floor you would ask, “Is that a fish?” not “Is that fish?”