What Nick Saban meant when he said “like sh** through a tin horn”
If you haven’t heard Alabama coach Nick Saban’s carefully-crafted yet impassioned rant from his Wednesday press conference, stop what you’re doing and tune in. You’ll thank me later.
Under the guise of speaking to the media, Saban dropped some foreboding knowledge on his Crimson Tide players, who are probably taking Saturday’s game against Charleston Southern a bit lightly. Saban’s a master at getting hidden messages out to his team without actually directly speaking to his troops.
Saban’s message: Do not let Charleston Southern sneak up on you.
“Y’all don’t remember the Georgia Southern game, do you? I don’t think we had a guy on that field that didn’t play in the NFL — and about four or five of them were first-round draft picks. And I think that team won a national championship but I’m not sure,” Saban told the assembled media. “And (Georgia Southern) run through our ass like sh** through a tin horn, man, and we could not stop them. Could not stop them. Could not stop them.
“I think we’d given up like 300 yards rushing the whole season in 10 games. That’s like 30 yards a game. And all anybody wanted to talk about was how dominant the front was and how nobody could run against us. They got 300 yards rushing in one game.”
It was 302 yards, actually. You weren’t the only one counting. Georgia Southern fullback Dominique Swope dropped 153 yards and scored a touchdown while six other ball carriers helped to average 7.7 yards per carry in that 2011 game.
Alabama still won, 45-21. Alabama will beat Charleston Southern this week, too, likely just as handily. And all of that is of much less importance than this important question:
What’s a tin horn, and what exactly does it mean when sh** runs through it? Even more perplexing, where did this idiom originate?
Forget the unambiguous outcome of the upcoming Alabama-Charleston Southern battle. Getting inside Saban’s head is far more entertaining.
Many credit General George S. Patton with the phrase. He dropped it during a speech to the Third Army on June 5, 1944, according to Charles M. Province, who wrote “The Unknown Patton.”
“I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my position.’ We are not holding a G*dda**ed thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living sh** out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like sh** through a tin horn!”
There are others who believe the phrase was coined well before Patton may have borrowed it. The website LanguageHat.com offered the idea that British novelist William Boyd is responsible, and the term dates back to the 19th century.
A tin horn could be a reference to “plumbing arrangements on early railway cars.” Apparently when flushed, the contents of the toilet dropped directly onto the train tracks.
There’s also a mention of similar phrases: “like butter through a tin horn” could be a reference to a grounded boat that had to be navigated off its resting place, and “like mud through a tin-horn” may have been attributed to the “sudden starts” while piloting a boat in the early 20th century.
We’ll likely never know exactly where the phrase “sh** through a tin horn” came from, but Saban surely meant it as a way to describe how easily and quickly Georgia Southern’s running backs shot through the Alabama defense in 2011.
If Charleston Southern has any sort of success resembling that debacle from four years ago, expect Saban to meet, if not exceed, the outburst from Wednesday. Look out for more expletives too.