A Brief Political History of 'Chickenshit'

The insult has been used a few times by politicians in the past several years.
Photography by Eric Chuang/Getty Images

Sticks and stones may break a politician's bones, but the insult "chickensh-t" can really cut to the core. Used by an unnamed Obama administration to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an article by the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, "chickensh-t" has surfaced in the political arena a few other times in recent years. 

Though John Boehner derided the Obama administration for insulting "ally after ally," the House Speaker used the very same word to describe then-Senator Obama back in 2008. As ABC News reported at the time, Boehner criticized Obama's "present" votes by invoking the term:

"In Congress, we have a red button, a green button and a yellow button, alright?" he said. "Green means ‘yes,’ red means ‘no,’ and yellow means you’re a chickens***. And the last thing we need in the White House, in the oval office, behind that big desk, is some chicken who wants to push this yellow button."

During a bitter 2007 debate on immigration reform between Republican Senators John McCain and John Cornyn, McCain angrily used the word to describe his Texas colleague. Well, at least media accounts implied that "chickensh-t" was the charge made, as the Washington Post reported: 

He used a curse word associated with chickens and accused Cornyn of raising the issue just to torpedo a deal.

So what's all the fuss about? The American Heritage Dictionary defines "chickensh-t" thusly:


1. A coward.

2. Contemptibly petty, insignificant nonsense.


1. Cowardly; afraid.

2. Contemptibly unimportant; petty.

As insults go, "chickensh-t" has really caught on over the past few decades in the book world, too. A quick Google search reveals that it has become a favorite of authors, though their love of "bullsh-t" is getting way, way out of control.






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