Bleg: polite and up-to-date substitute for “happy horsesh*t”?

Apparently that highly useful phrase is no longer current. Did something replace it?

In a draft essay that I sent out to colleagues for comment, I used the phrase “happy h.s.,” assuming that the meaning “Absurdly and probably insincerely over-optimistic prediction, explanation, or interpretation from official or semi-official souces” would be familiar. In fact, two of my friends – neither much more than a decade younger than I – weren’t even sufficiently acquainted with the phrase to expand the initials.

Note that HHS is not synonymous with BS; rather, it is a sub-category under BS.

So: Does contemporary idiom have a comparably punchy (and if possible less pungent, or at least more printable) phrase that means the same thing?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

43 thoughts on “Bleg: polite and up-to-date substitute for “happy horsesh*t”?”

  1. “Statement,” as in the following contexts:

    “Lohan released a statement through her attorney assuring her fans she’ll back to snorting coke off bathroom floors in no time.”

    “The senator’s official statement is that he had never met the woman and that the investigation will find that the photos in question are not what they appear to be.”

  2. The computer industry has the felicitous “vapourware” for announcements of marvellous products that don’t actually exist. I’ve seen it used by John Quiggin in a wider sense, applied to thorium reactors and similar untried nuclear technologies. (Cue for hundred-comment thread derail by nuclear fans illustrating but not responding to Mark’s question.)

    1. I think that widened sense deprives the term of some meaning. You have to be selling something for it to be “vapor-ware”, that’s what the “ware” means.

      Loses the distinction between “selling something that doesn’t exist” and “Let’s make this exist”.

  3. If “happy HS” has dropped out of use, we need to bring it back. Both “horsesh*t” and “bullsh*t” have an important role in dialogue and we need words for them. Horsesh*t means something which is not true, but it does not carry the important additional connotation (present in bullsh*t) that the listener is presumed to understand that it is not true. HS is a flat out lie: “Gov. Christie had no knowledge of the bridge closing plan.” BS is actually much less pernicious, because its distinguishing characteristic is that even the speaker does not expect the listener to be deceived by it, i.e., “Your call is important to us.” HHS is particularly pernicious because it generally emanates from a person in charge, presumably in the possession of facts not available to the audience, and it delivers a false prediction intended to cut off criticism and concern.

    When I was a kid, people speaking politely would substitute “hooey.” Since I doubt that anyone in today’s audience would understand that term, I humbly suggest substituting “manure.” “Happy horse manure” does not have a nice ring to it, but it will bring the term back into our language, at which point we can start saying HHS again.

    1. An apocryphal story says that sometime in 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt quietly approached Bess Truman and said, “I wonder if you could speak to the president about his language when he is talking about the Republicans. ‘Horse feathers’ sounds much nicer than ‘horse manure’, don’t you think?” Mrs. Truman supposedly replied “My dear, you don’t know what you’re up against. It took us 20 years to get Harry to say ‘manure’.”

      The story seems dubious, but it was impossible to resist passing it along here.

  4. I haven’t beard that in ages thank you. Just bring the phrase back the kids must learn some of the old ways yet.

  5. I’ll vote for ‘blowing smoke’, short for ‘blowing smoke out his ass’. But I’m not all that up-to-date, either.

    1. I am no expert, but I had always thought “blowing smoke” was short for saything that the speaker was trying to blow the smoke up the other person, or maybe in their face. Interesting.

  6. In my day the hip, printable term for this was Jive. That’s all I got. Shows how up-to-date I am.

  7. I’d never claim to have my finger on the metaphorical pulse of the zeitgeist; I don’t know what the popular phrase is nowadays.

    For my own preferences, I’d offer “burbling” – but I note that I don’t see anything in he dictionary definition.

  8. Plinking the rainbows and unicorns suggestion. Lots of “and a pony!” Or “ponies for all” kinds of language comes to mind. Sources- lefty blogs mocking rightwing pundits making up positive outcomes from nowhere.

    Step 1, X
    Step 2, Y
    Step 3 ???
    Step 4, profit!
    I think that was the underpants gnome business model. Learned that from Krugman, think it’s South Park.
    And presumably ponies for all.

    1. This is what I was going to suggest.

      Also ‘don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining’.

      ‘Pulled it out or his[1] @ss’.

      [1] May not be used against female liars, hacks and BS artists, for some reason ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Mentioning “puppies” definitely gives the right implication. For example, mention the over-optimistic prediction, then add “And everyone gets a puppy!”

  9. I like “tractor production figures”, which I think originated with liberal criticism of Gordon Brown for managing the British public sector by prescriptive centrally-set targets, with unfortunate results (there was sometimes also a connotation that the Labour political machine that produced Gordon Brown ran Glasgow the way Brezhnev ran the Soviet Union). But it applies in any context where reporting the truth up the chain (or being seen not to believe the lies you are reporting up the chain) will get you sent to Siberia.

  10. “Corporate happy face” is my preferred term. But it is only clear in a work context.

  11. I think “rainbows and unicorns” might be the winner. Thanks to all, especially Brett. Still lacks the punch of h.h.s., but so it goes.

    1. For emphasis, one can specify a pony that sh*ts rainbows. I suppose for even greater emphasis, one could specify unicorns that sh*t rainbows.

  12. I always considered happy horse shit as a reference to activities as in wash the car, mow the lawn, and other “happy horse shit”. I always think of bullshit and horseshit alone as referring to words as in Christie’s lies, GOP lies etc.

    As for current usage I use “scratching my ass”, as in What are you doing “scratching my ass” to mean doing so many routine things I don’t want to waste my time describing them.

  13. The recently departed Harry Morgan aka Colonel Potter M.A.S.H deferred to his midwestern roots using classics like “Horse Hockey”, “Buffalo Chips!” or “Mule Fritters!” Miss him already.

  14. “HHS is not synonymous with BS; rather, it is a sub-category under BS.” – That’s sticking it to Sebelius!

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