Why was the K-Mart ad featuring the phrase ‘ship my pants’ so funny? Because it sounds too much like the idiom ‘shit my pants’.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over a controversial new Kmart commercial that bases its joke on American English pronunciation.
First, if you want to check out the commercial, click here, or follow the link in the description. In the commercial, Kmart takes advantage of our use of Stop consonants in American English. They use the word ‘ship’ to sound like the word ‘shit’ in the idiom ‘to shit your pants’. Let’s take a look at why these two words sound the same.
The only difference in pronunciation is the final sound. Both of these sounds are stop consonants. Stop consonants have two parts. A stop of air, and a release of air. We often leave out the release of air, especially when the next word begins with a consonant. So, instead of saying ‘ship my’, where the lips open and release the air before the next sound, we’ll say ‘ship my’, without releasing the air before the M. Ship my, ship my. The same is true of the word ‘shit’, we don’t usually say ‘shit my’, releasing the air of the T before the next consonant sound. We usually say ‘shit my’, where we hold the air and go right into the next sound, in this case, the M, without the release. Shit my, shit my. When the release is left out, these two phrases sound almost exactly the same. Ship my pants, shit my pants. Kmart wants you to know you can ship any item they don’t have in the store for free, and to make sure you remember, they’re making it sound a lot like the idiom to ‘shit your pants’.
What does this idiom mean? First I want to point out that ‘shit’ is a cuss word, a dirty word, as you probably already know. You want to use this idiom only among friends, in a casual setting, when you feel confident they won’t be offended. It’s a colorful way to express that you’re worried about something. For example: I’m shitting my pants over the test on Friday. Or, I’m scared to fly. Don’t shit your pants, you’ll be fine.
‘Shit’ begins with the SH sound, sh, where the teeth are together, the lips flare, and the front part of the tongue is very close to the roof of the mouth. Then we have the IH as in SIT vowel, with a little jaw drop, then the stop T, where we cut off the airflow, shit, shit, mm, the M consonant, lips come together for that, shit mm-mmy. The AI as in BUY diphthong. You do need some jaw drop for the first half of that diphthong. Shit my. Let’s take a moment here to talk about stress in this phrase: SHIT and PANTS are the two content words, and MY is a function word. So it will be unstressed. The stress pattern is DA-da-DA. Long-short-long. DA-da-DA. Shit my pants. So ‘my’ needs to be quick, and lower in pitch than the other two words: my, my, my, shit my. Then we have ‘pants’: lips come together for the P. Then the AA vowel is followed by the N consonant. When the AA vowel is followed by a nasal consonant, we have an ‘uh’ sound between. Paa-uh-nts. Check out the video I made that explains that concept if you haven’t already. Then we have the N consonant, TS sound. Normally the front part of the tongue will go to the roof of the mouth for the N and T sounds, like this. But since they are followed by the S here, you can take a short cut, and use not the tip but the top part of the tongue just behind the tip, here. That way your tip can be free to make the SS sound, where it presses behind the bottom front teeth with the lips closed. To make the S, pull the tongue away from the roof of the mouth. NTS, NTS. Pants. pants. Shit my pants.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning this expressive idiom.
Practice your English — try it out yourself. Make a video using this idiom and post it as a video response to this video on YouTube. I’m very interested to see what you come up with.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.