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    #1

    ass - person

    When an American person calls another person an ass, do they think they're calling that person a donkey or a bottom? Of course, what they mean is just to call that person names, but what would be the speaker's intuition regarding the origin of this term?

    What about a young British person? I think an older person would say they're using the "donkey" meaning. Am I right?

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: ass - person

    Honestly, I picture neither a posterior nor a donkey. It just means "You're being a jerk."

    I don't think I"m alone in this. If you say "That's bulls**t!" I don't think of a large male bovine pooping, I think "You don't believe it" or "That's nonsense!"
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  2. buggles's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: ass - person

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    When an American person calls another person an ass, do they think they're calling that person a donkey or a bottom? Of course, what they mean is just to call that person names, but what would be the speaker's intuition regarding the origin of this term?

    What about a young British person? I think an older person would say they're using the "donkey" meaning. Am I right?
    Very few people of any age use the word "ass" in BrE nowadays.

    It's very old-fashioned and, even when in fashion, tended to be used only by the upper/middle classes. It's used a lot by characters in books by P.G. Wodehouse and most assuredly it's connotations would have been only with a donkey.

  3. riquecohen's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: ass - person

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Honestly, I picture neither a posterior nor a donkey. It just means "You're being a jerk."

    I don't think I"m alone in this. If you say "That's bulls**t!" I don't think of a large male bovine pooping, I think "You don't believe it" or "That's nonsense!"
    My reaction as well.

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    #5

    Re: ass - person

    *** NOT A TEACHER ***

    @birdeen's call

    Thank you for your question. I have wondered about this many times.

    As for BrE usage, I remember fivejedjon telling me that he prefers the term "smart-arse" to (the AmE) "smart ass", and from this I infer (maybe falsely ) that "you're such an arse" is the phrase that I would expect from a BrE speaker. (Not that I actually expect anyone telling me such a thing, though I have already been called meaner names than that, LL.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D
    Honestly, I picture neither a posterior nor a donkey. It just means "You're being a jerk."
    But substituting "ass" for "asshole" makes it clear what the person is referring to, doesn't it?

    Without wishing to hijack the thread, I would just like to ask whether "bum" (E.g., "He's such a bum.") means a lazy person (in this context), or the body part we sit on? And if we add the adjective, "lazy" to the previous exclamation ("He's such a lazy bum!"), does it mean that he's a lazy ass/butt/buttock, or is it still just a phrase meaning that the person in question is (annoyingly) lazy?

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    #6

    Re: ass - person

    Quote Originally Posted by ~Mav~ View Post
    *** NOT A TEACHER ***

    @birdeen's call

    Thank you for your question. I have wondered about this many times.

    As for BrE usage, I remember fivejedjon telling me that he prefers the term "smart-arse" to (the AmE) "smart ass", and from this I infer (maybe falsely ) that "you're such an arse" is the phrase that I would expect from a BrE speaker. (Not that I actually expect anyone telling me such a thing, though I have already been called meaner names than that, LL.)
    I don't remember seeing or hearing "arse" used as a derogatory term for a person as in

    You're such an arse.

    But the AHD has "3. a stupid person; fool". Hopefully, our British friends will explain.

    Without wishing to hijack the thread, I would just like to ask whether "bum" (E.g., "He's such a bum.") means a lazy person (in this context), or the body part we sit on? And if we add the adjective, "lazy" to the previous exclamation ("He's such a lazy bum!"), does it mean that he's a lazy ass/butt/buttock, or is it still just a phrase meaning that the person in question is (annoyingly) lazy?
    These meanings are not related etymologically according to the AHD.

    PS: I misunderstood what you'd written, which is why my answer has nothing to do with the question. Sorry.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 19-Jul-2011 at 18:06. Reason: PS

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: ass - person

    Bum as in "you're a lazy bum" has nothing to do with posteriors.

    We might say "You're being a horse's a** about it" -- I really NEVER associate "you're being an ass" with a human posterior.

    I'm done with this thread, by the way. Others can take over if there are more questions.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: ass - person

    I would think of the donkey, with the same meaning as a jerk, or stubborn jerk, or impolite jerk.

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    #9

    Re: ass - person

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Honestly, I picture neither a posterior nor a donkey. It just means "You're being a jerk."

    I don't think I"m alone in this. If you say "That's bulls**t!" I don't think of a large male bovine pooping, I think "You don't believe it" or "That's nonsense!"
    Thank goodness for asterisks, Barb.

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    #10

    Re: ass - person

    To my mind, when someone uses a** in AmE (excuse my asterisks, but I generally never curse, even in real life. I'm such a prude.... ) they are, no matter how indirectly, still refering to the human posterior. Yes, calling someone an a** means that they're acting stupidly or inappropriately, but it all harks back to the backside. Think about it.....when you tell someone to "kiss my a**" you are literally inviting them to humiliate themselves by smooching your rump. The human butt has become a synonym for the worst of the worst, the lowest of the low, the ultimate insult. If you moon someone, you are showing contempt or disrespect by visually exposing your buttocks. Therefore, whether you call someone an a**hole, a**hat, a**clown, or any number of similar epithets, it is insulting because you are likening them to a human posterior, that area of the body from which we excrete.....well, you know.

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