Crappy metaphor: slippers that make you feel like you're stepping on shit

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Sign on the elevator doors of a Taipei department store:

Here's the writing on the sign (romanized transcriptions and parenthetical English translations have been added by me [VHM]):

One Boy

Atmosphere / Function

Jīnéng  qīng lǚ xié xìliè
機能 輕旅鞋系列
("Function    light travel slippers series")


Shèngdà kāimù
("Grand Opening")

New Opening

Dàiyánrén GEmma Wú Yìngjié
代言人 GEmma 吳映潔
("Spokesperson Gemma Wu Yingjie")


Cǎi shǐ gǎn jūjiā hùwài liǎng yòng tuōxié
("Dual use slippers for home and outside that give you the feeling of stepping on shit")

Jiěfàng yālì de kuàigǎn
("The pleasure of releasing stress")

Global Mall

Xīnběi Zhōnghé
("New Taipei Zhonghe")


1. “One Boy" is the brand name, but the ad shows a female star endorsing their products.  Here's copy for their campaign.  Note that it comes with a video, and also that the video uses the "shit" part at the end — fortunately not literally illustrated. One Boy's site includes an image similar to the department store ad.

2. The spokesperson is GEmma, whose English name is Emma Wu and whose Chinese name is Wú Yìngjié 吳映潔.  That doesn't quite match the calligraphic form of the name just below, which interestingly begins with a star (a cute alternation of the upper 口 in her surname 吳"), then comes what seems to be a transformation of the lower part of her surname, and ends with what looks to me like a cursive "g".  The "g" in "GEmma" is probably meant to indicate coolness of some sort.  I think that it almost has a totemic meaning for her.  Note that she has an alias, Guǐ Guǐ 鬼鬼 ("Ghost Ghost") — GG, for short, I would hazard — which she asserts conveys her impish spirit and eccentric, reckless personality.

A Chinese friend says that Emma's calligraphic signature might be interpreted as a vertical "emmag." In any event, my friend says that "her full name 吳映潔 is too difficult and time-consuming to sign."

Another friend interprets the signature in an entirely different way:

I took a close look at the signature in this picture, and am pretty sure that the handwriting indeed writes the actress’ name, Yìngjié “映潔”. For yìng “映”, it is such an ingenious design! Since 映 is made of two parts, rì 日 and yāng 央, the designer of the signature has done two steps: 1) replacing the rì “日”, or “sun”, with a “star”; 2) instead of putting the “celestial body” semantophore by the left side of the phonophore yāng 央, it was placed above it as if it were a star shining up there.

And as for the bottom part, it also looks like an artistic redesign of jié 潔. As for the whole character beneath 映, I’m pretty sure it is just jié 絜 (the long “J"-looking hook is this character's bottom part). As for the "sāndiǎn shuǐ 三点水” (three drops of water) semantaphore for jié 潔, again, the designer seems to have placed it on the right side instead of the left side (for an unknown reason), and made the three vertically-placed “dots” of 氵 into a horizontally-placed smily face. That’s why that smily face has three eyes above the mouth, instead of two! 😄

This is my own rendition of the signature!

[VHM:  To each his own!]

3. "Cǎi shǐ gǎn 踩屎感" ("the feeling of stepping on shit") seems to be a new fashion in advertising slippers. If you simply google  踩屎拖鞋" ("slippers [that give you the feeling of] stepping on shit"), you get all sorts of slippers boasting that kind of (grotesque) softness and comfort.

Here's how one Chinese student describes the inimitable feeling:

Hahaha! This is a new description / adjective that has emerged in the Chinese netizen’s age, specifically used to describe the feeling of shoes / sneakers with very soft, cushiony, and bouncy support, in contrast with those which have little / solid support. Please imagine comparing a pair of running sneakers with leather shoes. The former would have "cǎi shǐ gǎn 踩屎感" ("the feeling of stepping on shit"). In English, the equivalent should be “stepping on a cloud / marshmallow”. I don’t know why it must be “poop” that one steps into to get the cushiony, soft, bouncy feeling… but it is what it is, as our ingenious Chinese netizens have invented!

4. GEmma has her own extensive Wikipedia page, both in English and in Chinese.

Scatological summation

In a word, footwear metaphors have gone to shit.

Bonus link:  George Carlin on shit.

Another bonus video:   Know shit from Shinola.


shǐ 屎

Middle Sinitic: /ɕˠiɪX/
Old Sinitic
(BaxterSagart): /*[qʰ]ijʔ/
(Zhengzhang): /*hliʔ/
From Proto-Sino-Tibetan *kləj (“excrement”).  [?]



Old English scitan, from Proto-Germanic *skit- (source also of North Frisian skitj, Dutch schijten, German scheissen), from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split." The notion is of "separation" from the body (compare Latin excrementum, from excernere "to separate," Old English scearn "dung, muck," from scieran "to cut, shear"….


File under

I just don't understand the young generation.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Mark Swofford and several generous correspondents.]


  1. amy said,

    May 7, 2023 @ 10:04 pm

    A similarly odd metaphor I've seen used for audio equipment is "your ears will get pregnant".

  2. Robot Therapist said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 5:17 am

    I'd normally say "step IN shit" rather than "ON"

  3. Chris Button said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 6:17 am

    (Baxter–Sagart): /*[qʰ]ijʔ/
    (Zhengzhang): /*hliʔ/

    The (tentative?) uvular onset by B&S seems unwarranted here. I would reconstruct ɬ-, which is essentially equivalent to Zhengzhang's hl-.

  4. Mike Grubb said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 9:24 am

    A slang term for leather work boots (at least in the '80s to '90s in South and Central Pennsylvania) was "shit kickers." Of course, this was less a statement about their comfort than about the rural environments where such footwear was practical.

  5. RfP said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 1:34 pm

    I was in a Country-and-Western band in high school in the 1960s. We called our cowboy boots, which were Acme Roughouts, “shit kickers.”

    We often played for audiences of people from “Down Home,” for whom the highest compliment was always, “Y’all play some real shit-kickin’ music!”

  6. Terry K. said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 3:54 pm

    @Robot Therapist

    For what we usually mean when we talk about it, yes, it would be normal to say "step in shit". But the idea conveyed in the ad is quite different. It seems to me "on" is the correct preposition to convey the idea the ad is trying to convey. Not "Ew, gross I got shit on me", but a soft surface under one's feet.

  7. Vassili said,

    May 8, 2023 @ 9:36 pm

    Brings "walking on cloud" to mind. "Walking on A Cloud" is a Canadian shoe business.

  8. Daniel Barkalow said,

    May 9, 2023 @ 1:26 pm

    I've recently had my yard landscaped, and the surface is now softer than the packed dirt that was there before due to the addition of compost in the top layer. I wouldn't be surprised if some languages' cognates suggested this experience rather than raw sewage.

  9. hatsu! said,

    May 14, 2023 @ 9:05 pm

    me romanizing "踩屎感" into some of the phonetic systems of Taiwan's national languages:
    >GT Hokkien POJ: chhái-sái-kám
    >Tai-lo: tshái-sái-kám
    >Hakka PFS: chhài-sṳ́-kám
    >Mandarin GR: tsaeshyygaan
    >Wade-Giles: ts`ai3-shih3-kan3
    >Tongyong w/ tone numbers: cai3shih3gan3
    >Bopomofo: ㄘㄞˇㄕˇㄍㄢˇ
    (also me trying to represent this in Japanese kun'on: せんしかん – and Korean hangul: 단시감)

  10. hatsu! said,

    May 14, 2023 @ 9:06 pm

    *btw when I said kun'on I meant go'on/kan'on… sorry for the error >﹏<

  11. Alex said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 2:33 pm

    Chris, why would you choose to reconstruct 屎 with hl-? In B&S 2014, regarding 屎, they say:

    "It is likely that uvular *χ- from earlier *qʰ(ˤ)- shifted to a velar [x] , because it subsequently palatalized under the same conditions as the original velars, as in: 屎 *[qʰ]ijʔ > *xijʔ > syijX > shǐ ‘excrement’"

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