You Don’t Know Shit from Shinola

  1. The main piece: Shinola (Proverbial Insult)

“You don’t know shit from Shinola.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“My grandpa used to say it to my dad, and my dad said it to me. He said one day my dad said something, and he said, ‘You know what, you don’t know shit from Shinola.’

“Shinola is brown shoe polish. So it’s the same color as shit. So no one knows shit from Shinola.”

  1. The context of the performance

It’s a proverbial insult that members of his family used to say when the informant was growing up. He said that “it doesn’t impart wisdom, it’s saying that you have none.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

Insults and teasing are often a way of developing close relationships and building rapport. This joking insult passed from grandfather to father to son shows the teasing nature of their relationships and the lighthearted attitudes in their families. This proverbial insult also provides a way for elder members of the family to reprimand children when they become overconfident or misspeak: while it clearly puts them in their place, they know that it is a “tough-love,” teasing phrase and are not too wounded by the insult. It also may show that the insulter does not view the insultee as mature or old enough yet.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a 22 year old American male and grew up in Tiburon, where he spent lots of time with his father and grandfather, as well as the other kids in his tight-knit neighborhood. His primary language is English, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.