The difference between a buttload, boatload and shitload.

I found that I’ve been censoring myself when it comes to measuring quantities in storytelling. It’s part of growing up, I thought, it’s inappropriate to talk about buttloads of
shit in polite conversation. Not only was I wrong about what a buttload actually was, but I found that I’ve been throwing the terms around with no regard to their actual quantity. Were there boatloads or buttloads of people in line at the supermarket, or was there merely a shitload?

For arbitrary’s sake, I’ll be comparing these sizes in gallons of whiskey (not including the jug), which is less dense than water, and weighs about 7.7 lbs per gallon. I know this is problematic, what if you want to describe how many legos you used to own in terms of butt/boat/shitloads? What about abstract concepts like boatloads of fun? you’ll need to convert them yourself. This is just a mild attempt at understanding size differences.

Buttload: “A ‘butt‘ is a traditional unit of volume used for wines and other alcoholic beverages. A butt is generally defined to be two hogsheads, but the size of hogsheads varies according to the contents. In the United States a hogshead is typically 63 gallons and a butt is 126 gallons.

I used to think buttload was just a mishearing of boatload, but nope, it is a butt distinct unit, from Middle English bote. From now on, I’ll probably start measuring things in hogsheads.

Boatload: “the cargo that a vessel carries or is capable of carrying.”
Thanks to the indefinite response from the dictionary, I guess it will depend on how big of a boat we are talking about (can be modified, huge boatload, tiny boatload). As an example, we’ll use one of the largest cargo ships, The Colombo Express.
The Colombo Express holds 8,749 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), and while TEUs are hardly standardized, “the maximum gross mass for a 20-foot (6.1 m) dry cargo container is 24,000 kilograms (53,000 lb).[4] Subtracting the tare mass of the container itself, the maximum amount of cargo per TEU is reduced to approximately 21,600 kilograms (48,000 lb),” according to a Page That Cannot Be Found. Thrilling, that’s good enough for me. Math.
21,600 kg * 8,749 TEUs = 188,978,400 kg = 416,626 ,056 lbs
so,  416,626,056lbs / 7.7lbs = 54,107,280 gallons.

Shitload: After reading through a thread discussing a formula for calculating average poop size, minus the fiber and bacterial content, I’m siding with user “Dave” and agreeing that the avg poop is probably around .5 lbs, but since it varies daily with diet and health, and is messy, highly intricate and hard (or soft) to calculate, I’ll elect to use an interval of .5 ≤ x ≤ 2 lbs, so .065 ≤ x ≤ .260 gallons.

In conclusion, here is an incredibly important infographic with a shitload of dropshadow:Boatload vs buttload vs shitload
(Click here for a huge version)


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  2. alex

    And then there’s the Gaylord.

    I deal in electronic surplus and we talk about Gaylords often, serious dealers anyway. A Gaylord is that pallet-sized huge cardboard box with reinforced corners you sometimes see full of watermelons in front of your market in summer, or pumpkins in the fall. Made by the Gaylord company.

    1. Duderino

      In the chemical industry these are a standard unit of measure for some products. Formerly worked for a wholesaler of powder-coat paints and they were sold by the Gaylord.

  3. Jim Groom

    I want to see a post about Gaylords! Also, what was the traffic count, can you see from Google Analytics? I’m curious to know, and fine work getting redditted 🙂

    1. andrew

      58,153 Visits
      57,781 Unique Visitors
      60,389 Pageviews

      Before they shut down access to the site and it left the reddit front page.

      This page was on reddit last August, but only got about 5,000 page views.

      1. Jim Groom

        Holy shit, that is crazy. 60,000 page views in a day or so, now I understand why Site5 shut you down. If this doesn’t reinforce just how good and funny you are I don;t know what would. You really need to start blogging again.

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  8. Nick

    For those of you who were wondering, a fuckton of whiskey would be about 260 gallons.

    Approx density of Whiskey (7.7 lbs/gallon)
    1 Ton = 2000 lbs
    1 fuck = Roughly 2 tablespoons…
    (2000 lbs / (7.7 lbs/gallon)) + 2 Tbs = about 260 gallons

    1. Someone Intelligent

      I think you got it wrong. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but you would have to multiply 1fuck by 1ton in order to get a fuckton in tablespoon pounds. Then you divide it by the approximate density of whiskey. So it starts like this:

      ((2tbs x 2,000lbs) / 7.7lbs/gallon) = 1fuckton
      4,000tbsxgallons / 7.7lbs/gallon = 1fuckton
      Approximations necessary at this point:
      519.48tbsxgallons = 1fuckton
      So now you have to calculate what 1tbsxgallon is in gallons to multiply it by 519.48 to get it in gallons. That’s 0.0039 so now we have:
      519.48 x 0.0039gallons = 1fuckton
      2.03gallons = 1fuckton

  9. SoulNibbler

    I’m a bit confused as to what a fuckton should be though. I have two options:
    1) The amount of fluid lost in 2,000 fucks. (metric is of course 1,000)
    2) Simply 1 ton (metric or empirial) of fuck byproducts, which at STP could represent a sizeable volume if we include CO2.

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  14. Anne Ominous

    You are 100% wrong.

    “Buttload” *IS* a mis-hearing of “boatload”. Yes, a “butt” is a unit of measurement used in winemaking, equivalent to 126 gallons. But “buttload” is not a unit used in winemaking and never has been. The fact that the words are superficially similar does not mean they are the same.

    The word “boatload” has been in use since the 1600s to mean “a large quantity”. “Buttload” has never been in use at all until a relatively few years ago.

    Someone mis-heard “boatload” and ASSOCIATED that mishearing with “shitload”, internally justifying in their minds that they actually heard it correctly. But they didn’t.

    Face it. Buttload is nothing more than a modern bastardization of boatload. History proves it. It only became popular a few years ago. And while “butt” has been used in the wine industry for at least a couple of centuries, “buttload” simply has not.

    I won’t accept your attempt to re-write history in order to justify your misuse of words.

    1. Anne Ominous

      By the way: the same is true of the phrase “butt naked”. The actual traditional phrase is “buck naked”.

      Someone misheard both of these, but made an incorrect association (the butt is naked… that makes sense!). But in actuality they are both pretty new, and are simply mis-hearings of very old, common phrases.

      Apparently by somebody who is a bit overly obsessed with butts.

        1. Jim Groom

          This is the post that just keeps on giving! So awesome. More than 100,000 reasons that blogging is an insane practice of bringing together people around a shared sense of absurdity.

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  16. Cori

    I love this! I think the only thing I would add is that a buttload is actually 432 imperial gallons (504 US??) because a butoad was four butts because that was the maximum number of butts you could carry in a large wagon.

  17. Arlen

    The amount of weight a ship can safely carry is called Deadweight Tonnage, or DWT.

    The DWT for the Colombo Express is 103,800 tonnes, or 105,466 metric tons.

    2.400tons/container * 8,749 containers = 20,997.6 tons

    105,466 – 20,997 = 84,449tons

    If we assume that these shipping containers will somehow magically hold whiskey without leaking… and if the density of whiskey is ~7.4lb/gal, that gives us 22,824,054 gallons.

    You’d be better off using an oil tanker. A Very Large oil tanker will carry 300,000 tonnes, or 82,382,432 gallons.

    Please forgive my lack of significant figures. Switching between units is hard.

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  22. George

    On the TV series “Justified,” set in rural Kentucky, the marshall asked his deputy “On a scale of one to a shitload, how much do I need to know about what’s going on!” Love this expression…and it wouldn’t have been as funny if he had said “on a scale of one to a buttload (or some other word).” Anybody know if this is a true “Southernism”?

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