What does "the poop" mean in this sentence from "Of Mice And Men" (section 2)? Even Wiktionary, with all its slang and dialect vocabulary, is no help

"After that the guys went into Soledad and raised hell. I didn't go in there. I ain't got the poop no more."

  • 1
    All the student-notes type websites say it means 'the energy'. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:08
  • @MichaelHarvey I know. But I didn't find it in authoritative dictionaries I use. Where those websites got that idea I don't know Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 21:51

4 Answers 4


Merriam-Webster doesn't offer an appropriate usage for a noun, but as a verb it can mean

to become exhausted
to tire out

So here the speaker seems to mean

I can't make the effort any more.
I can't be bothered.


  • 2
    This is likely the meaning, but worth noting that this isn't current usage of "poop". It might be slang unique to the poor people of that part of the United States during that era, or it might have been invented by the author just for that sentence.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 14:51
  • hmmm. To me it has a similar feel to 'piss & vinegar' and while googling I found the earliest (exact) match for that phrase comes from the 1936 book 'In Dubious Battle'. Guess who wrote 'In Dubious Battle'? So I'm with gotube. I reckon Mr Steinbeck was just trying to coin phrases related to bodily functions.
    – mcalex
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:18
  • 'to run out of wind' ie energy... poop is to blow, right back to Chaucer - see grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/04/pooped.html Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 16:46
  • I am familiar with the phrase "I'm pooped" to mean "I'm exhausted" (or "I'm pooped out", as M-W notes), and it seems likely that this usage is related to that phrase. Never seen poop = energy anywhere else, though!
    – stangdon
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 18:42
  • It was probably not invented by the author. It also appears in the book Handle With Fear, by Thomas Blanchard Dewey (1951). "What are you trying to say?" "Only this: I'm a middle-aged man. I don't have the poop a young man has." Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 17:56

Based on the context, there's some chance that the word "poop" is being used in its third noun meaning from M-W:

Information; scoop

(with "scoop" meaning inside information). In other words, the speaker has just said that he wasn't present for part of the evening's activities and therefore has no more information about exactly what happened.

It's hard to say for sure, though. The dialogue from this novel is that of a migrant labor class from the 1930s and the modern reader shouldn't expect to find all of the expressions familiar.

I'm not convinced by the answers that ascribe "being pooped" in the sense of being exhausted to the the expression "not having poop," where "poop" of course is a noun. But since the expression in the text is unfamiliar, it's hard to rule anything out.

  • My answer did not ascribe the meaning as "being exhausted": that is the M-W definition, which I used to interpret the usage. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:08
  • @WeatherVane: I don't understand your point. Do you have a problem with my use of the word "ascribe"?
    – cruthers
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 16:54
  • Not my DV but no, I was having a problem with one answer criticising another. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 17:02
  • @WeatherVane why would that be a problem? You state "here the speaker means" as if it's established fact.
    – cruthers
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 17:17
  • There you go again. If you don't like my answer, downvote it. But IMO it's bad form to criticise or vote on other answers. If you have a good answer let it speak for itself. Otherwise we end up with futile correspondence like this, or voting wars. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 17:21

This not an answer, but too long for a comment and adds to @Weather Vane's answer; the OED gives the following definition:-

poop, verb, colloquial, origin U.S. To tire, to exhaust. So pooped exhausted, worn out.

With the following quotations:-

1931: Technol. Rev. Nov. 65/2 “If his engine poops or konks, he will be forced down.”

1932: Amer. Speech VII. 335 “Pooped; all pooped, tired out; exhausted.”

1934: J. T. Farrell Young Manhood xii. 187 “He was tired and pooped.”

1938: `E. Queen' Four of Hearts (1939) iv. 57 “He ain't had a drink in five days. That would poop up any guy.”

1944: E. B. White Let. 15 May (1976) 253 “This would be a very bad time to pull our exhaustion on our readers, a lot of whom are pretty well pooped out themselves for one reason or another.”

1949: R. Chandler Little Sister xxx. 222 “Tired?' he asked. Pooped.'”

1955: M. Dickens Winds of Heaven iv. 93 “He'd better be..or he'll find his mother-in-law in the hospital with him. You've really pooped yourself, mother.”

1957: D. Karp Leave me Alone xviii. 274, “I don't think he understood me. The poor old guy is pooped out.”

1959: N. Mailer Advts. for Myself (1961) 45 “He remembered the old man sitting on the porch..all pooped out after work.”

1960: Sunday Express 24 July 4/2 “Bringing up eight kids..really has me pooped.”

1966: New Scientist 22 Sept. 658/1 “Lt Cdr Richard Gordon's space walk was cut short because..`he was blinded by sweat and felt pooped'.”

1967: Time 2 June 33 “Paley Park offers pooped passers-by a respite at little white tables and chairs in a setting of geraniums, honey locust trees, and a 20-ft. waterfall.”

1971: B. Malamud Tenants 7 “If it [sc. the heating system] pooped out, and it pooped often—the furnace had celebrated its fiftieth birthday—you called the complaint number of Rent and Housing Maintenance.”

1977: Time 18 Apr. 64/3 “Pheidippides..was so pooped by his performance that he staggered into Athens.”

  • It's "the poop" we're talking about, not "being pooped", though. Did the author just make it up? Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 14:12
  • @SergeyZolotarev, as Michael Harvey's comment indicates, replacing poop/pooped in the quotations with energy/tired pretty much makes sense. If you are not tired you have energy, if you have no energy you are tired, "I ain't got the poop/energy no more." Energy and tired are antonyms
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 14:28

poop noun (1) Definition of poop (Entry 2 of 6) 1informal : FECES, EXCREMENT As a brand-new father, a new substance plays a big role in my life: poop. — Scott Kramer As the years go by, there's trouble in paradise, and it isn't just the ubiquitous goose poop. — Katherine Lanpher 2informal : the act of defecating I have a complaint against dog owners that take their dogs for a walk but do not take a bag, then let their dog stop by people's mailboxes and take a poop. — Billie Johnston

  • Yes, we know that - but it is obviously not the meaning intended here. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 16:30

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