Crack The Shits

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Crack The Shits

I heard someone use the expression «he cracked the shits» today which is universally recognised (at least in Australia) to mean «lost his temper».

It struck me that it is a strange expression and the origin is not obvious. It is often used in a context where a threshold of frustration has been reached and the person «cracks it» or loses control and responds angrily, so this may be part of it. Perhaps «the shits» is just tacked on as an intensifier.

I’m pretty sure I’ve only heard it in the context of Australian English. Is this expression known and used outside Australia, and does anyone have a better explanation of how it might have arisen?

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I think this phrase is predominantly restricted to Australia, but with some use found in New Zealand. I’ve never heard it in British or American English, and wouldn’t have understood it without suitable context.

The earliest example I found in Usenet is from 1994 in by someone in Melbourne, Australia:

The conrod, piston, bearings etc etc I ordered finally arrived in the hotel a couple of days after I checked out. The hotel let it sit there for another few days before they let me know. I cracked the shits over the phone and the hotel fell for it. They’ve paid for express delivery to Aus. He he he he he.

I was nearly in *DEEP* shit when I got home. Dumb me left that photo in my suit case. Wife wanted to know whose tits they were.

I found nothing earlier in Google Books or newspaper searches.

Possible derivation

My guess is the phrase is a combination of crack meaning to «open up» and the shit meaning «trouble». For example, from’s list of Australian slang phrases:

Crack a tinnie

Meaning: open a can of cold beer

Example: Come over to my place and we’ll crack a tinnie.

And if someone is «in the shit», they’re in (serious) trouble, as shown in the Usenet quote above and defined in this dictionary of Australian slang:

In the shit — in serious trouble.

12. In in the shit, in trouble: low coll.: since mid-C.19. Often land (another) in the shit, or fall in the shit (oneself): since ca. 1879. Cf. the envious (e.g. he) could fall in the shit and come out smelling of violets (roses, etc.) 13. Hence, among soldiers in WW1, in the shit = in the mud and filth in mud and danger; in great and constant danger. [P.B.: E.P. was one of those soldiers, and no doubt wrote this entry with feeling.]

So crack the shits could be derived from losing one’s temper and putting other people in deep trouble.

I found this VBA code to unlock sheets without knowing the password:

My question is: What kind of exploit does it use to work?

In other words, how come this generated string of A’s and B’s can be used as the password to a sheet inside a particular workbook ?

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The Excel worksheet password protection works by converting the input password to a hash and stores it. A hash is a one-way algorithm that crunches up the bits, losing some information along the way, but generating a fingerprint of the original data. Because of the loss of data, it is impossible to reverse a hash to get the original password, but in the future if someone types in a password it can be hashed and compared against the stored hash. This (usually) makes it more secure than simply storing the password as a string to compare against.

The best description by far I’ve encountered of how brute forcing the Excel hashing algorithm works is on the page @mehow links to, posted by Torben Klein. His answer can be summed up as:

  1. The Excel hash function maps the large space of possible passwords to the small space of possible hashes.
  2. Because the hashing algorithm generates such small hashes, 15 bits, the number of possible hashes is 2^15 = 32768 hashes.
  3. 32768 is a tiny number of things to try when computing power is applied. Klein derives a subset of the input passwords that cover all of the possible hashes.

Based on this description of Excel’s hashing function, the following code generates the same hash as Excel which you can use to test Klein’s function.

to consolidate decimals

Hi pollytickle, Thanks for commenting! I’m glad to hear that this resource will be so useful 🙂 You might also find this resource handy:

Crack the Code Activity Sheet — Use this differentiated activity sheet to find missing terms in decimal and fraction number sequences. Use the missing sequences to crack the code and open the safe!

This resource is available in Standard, Lower Ability, Middle Ability and Higher Ability.