Lose or Loose – Don’t be a Loser!

If I want to say, “put that down before I lose/loose my shit!” which should I use (without being a loser)? What does “lose/loose my shit” mean anyway? And, why do people get it wrong so often?

LOSE:

Pronounced “looz”. Despite the single “o” in the spelling the “oo” sound is drawn out as in “Louise”.

  1. (v.) To miss-place something, to forget where something is.
  • Slow down or I’ll lose you; and,
  • Don’t leave it there, you’ll lose it.
  1. (v.) To not have won. Fail to win.
    It is, of course, in this sense of the verb in with we get loser. Being one who loses, or who has no chance of winning.
  • We win, you lose; and,
  • We lose, but only because they cheated.
  1. (v.) To fail to gain or retain. Be deprived off.
  • Put that down or I’ll lose my shit; and,
  • Hold tight, don’t lose it.

You may have tried to grab something, or even tried to hold onto something, and failed.

Of course, and this is where some of the confusion arises, if you deliberately released something, then you would “loose it”.

There is a convergence of meanings.

LOOSE:

Pronounced “loos”, despite the double “o” spelling, the “oo” sound is short as in “Louie”.

  1. (v.) To set free.
  • Let loose the dogs of war!
  • We don’t need that robot army any more, you can turn them loose.

So, it’s (mostly) equally right to say:

  • Hold tight, don’t lose it. (ie. don’t fail to retain it.); or,
  • Hold tight, don’t loose it. (ie. don’t deliberately let it go.) Though perhaps: Hold tight, don’t loose it yet, would be better.
  1. (adj.) Not firmly fixed. Not tight-fitting.
  • the jar lid was loose fitting; and,
  • My loose pants fell down.
  1. (adj.) Not exact.
  • loose talk costs lives;
  • a loose interpretation of the facts; and,
  • that was a loose shot.

The confusion comes in two ways.

  • The pronunciation works against the spelling so “Lose” is pronounced like we’d expect to pronounce “Loose” and visa versa; and,
  • All these incessant and sometimes convergent meanings.

So, if you say “loose my shit,” it would mean you literally had a bad case of diarrhoea. Awkward.

And, lose my shit? In this slang phrasing, anger has overwhelmed the speaker. What is being lost is one’s faculties of reason and level headedness. So instead of saying, “put that down before I lose my faculties of reasoning and level headedness,” we say, “put that down before I lose my shit”, to imply (and threaten) that we have already lost them.

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