Friday, October 20, 2006

I say potahto

I note, with icy disdain, that the word 'ass' to mean 'backside' is becoming common in Australian usage.


Always has been, always will be.

Surely the spread of 'ass' (so to speak) is just one more indication that under this government we have become little more than a pathetic puppet of the US. Does this freeze anyone else's blood, or is it just me?


ThirdCat said...

Yes, and if your children get into the Captain Underpants books, they call it a 'fanny'. Which leads to all sorts of problems when they ring their grannys (which I understand should probably be grannies, but that looks wrong).

Pavlov's Cat said...

That should sort itself out soon enough. A mate of mine swears that by the time his kids were six and eight, they understood perfectly that there were four different sets of words to be used for bodily functions and private parts: one for home, one for school, and one for each set of grandparents.

redcap said...

Oh, it does indeed freeze my blood! But then the Americans get almost everything wrong. They call an arse an ass, a bum a fanny, a fanny a pussy, a derelict a bum, a G-string a thong and a thong a flip-flop. How can we expect them to have any idea whatsoever? I'm so confused!

Laura said...

On the substantive issue, arse, yes absolutely. Sat no to asses. Arse-backwards, arsehat, half-arsed, arsehole etc, all very fine words and it's a shame to spoil them with stupid spelling. Not too far down that particular slippery slope before you're writing Nukyular and Eyrak.

Anonymous said...


It is a BUM not a BUTT.

A BUTT is something you put malmsey into, or comes on the end of a fag.

Ah.. erm ... I didn't mean that when I wrote it. Wrong in so many different ways.

- barista

Pavlov's Cat said...

Hah. I know you did it on purpose. Correct re butt, also.

Redcap, that was very clever.

Laura, 'half-arsed' is a particular fave of mine, and with 'half-assed' one completely loses the ... um ... arseonance.

The onomatopoeia (sp?) of 'pain in the arse' would also be lost -- that faint, die-away moan of the long 'a'.

Blue said...

dumbarse is a favourite that regardless of spelling is always pronounced with a long a

John Elliot said...

Pig's arse!

Zoe said...

I also am big on arse.

And I HATE that the teacher's at my son's kindy say "butt" - I think there's some feeling it's less rude (must be said through pursed lips).

Ass-clown, ass-about and the hatful of assholes just Do Not Work.

Fiona said...

Also hard to take - 'it's not that big of a deal' (Nicole Kidman!)

Pavlov's Cat said...

I can tolerate 'It's not that big of a deal', just, but what about the rise of 'I could care less' to mean, totally nonsensically, 'I couldn't care less'?

That one enrages me because it shows that the failure of understanding of the words that are coming out of your mouth is now officially total; it's a complete 180 degree disconnect from what it actually means.

phil said...

The most recent Us neologism I've noticed is to omit the word 'of' after saying 'couple', as in "I have a couple cats" (or more likely, I got a couple cats).

What is it with that country that everything they do makes things worse?

phil said...

Oh, and also "that was so fun". Eeeeugh.

Mindy said...

At least we aren't saying 'You're welcome' after everything yet. Then we know we are just another state.

zoot said...

Oh don't get me started. Have you noticed how the stressed syllable (if that's what it is) has moved over the years.
We used to do r'search but now we do ree-search and cerem'ny has become cere-moany. How long before we have a Department of Dee-fence?

el said...

Redcap, when I was in the States recently, I was assured at a BBQ that we had everything round the wrong way.

I can't stand ass -- it's cheap and harsh as well as being plumb wrong because it's really a kind of donkey. I imagine it must be particularly grating for Adelaideans with their 'dahnces' and so forth.

But -- I do wonder if there is some interesting historical linguistic reason for this variant usage? Like how Americans use 'ize' rather than 'ise' because they stuck with the C17/18th English spelling on this one, post-Mayflower.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Most sports commentators are already saying DEE-fence. Gaaah.

El, I'm sure that being imbued with the propah Adelaidean way does make these things particularleh grating. My problem is not with the way the Yanks do things as such -- I keep reminding myself that 49% (no, sorry, 51% allowing for the stolen election) of Americans are on the side of the angels, and I don't really want to be a US-hata -- but rather with the colonising effect. Especially in the light of current Australia-US relations.

JahTeh said...

I cannot understand a word of hiphop music but arse is perfectly clear.

Bernice said...

Sort of makes the whole Palm Sunday thing with Jesus riding into town on an ass rather self-evident. Or perhaps very confusing. & probably lost on most Americans.

Susoz said...

'Butt' really annoys me too but is now ubiquitous amoung under 20s - going right down to toddlers. It's the influence of American DVDs (my theory).
Another Americanism that really pisses me off is peope saying "I'm pissed about" when they mean "pissed off about". Becoming more widespread.

Laura said...

Father Jack (my guide in these matters as in so much else) would NEVER say 'ass'.

Jack says it, I believe it, that settles it.

estranjero said...

I have come understand the advantages of being at least bilingual in English. Some things are better said with the English-derived arse - e.g. half-arsed, hatful of arse-holes: but the ability to add "-ass" to any derogatory adjective and throw it at the annoyance of the moment is a true American boon. (Nor does it harm the environment.)

Enjoy the multifoliate rose. (What was Latin like after a couple hundred years of Ostragothic rule?)

Australia has been a colony for a couple hundred years now. If it truly desired autonomy it would be New Zealand.

BK said...


How half-arsed of you. That is the French spelling.

In most cases, where you get a verb formed from a noun, it should be "ize" - which, as the OED reports, is both entymologically (who cares? Fine) and aurally correct.

I have a theory about this. Take "analyse". That's spelled "analyze" in Merkin. So when the first word processor dictionaries came out (Merkin, naturally), the compiler, knowing this, assumed all English -ze endings were -se. So we got -ise in place of -ize. And people brought up on word processors, instead of, you know, real books and stuff, started using "-ise". Including the muppets at Macquarie, by the looks of things.

That's what happens when you take a language and isolate it for 200-odd years (that's the Merkins, not the Strines, by the way). It goes mouldy.

(there's another rant there, about the proliferation of Englishes — 'Australian' English and 'American' English for but two and I saw in The Australian the other day, in the article about the Macquarie 'Australian' English dictionary having to move, 'English' English. What the fuck is all that about? What is next, Mandarin English? Canadian English? Goodbye globalization, hello muppetry. It's not even as if many people talk 'Australian' English. 'English' is no longer the 'language spoken by the people of England', it is the de facto lingua franca. See? I just robbed some vocabulary. Excellent.)

And if I forgot to offend someone, I apologize. I'll get around to you as soon as I can be arsed.

Lisa said...

As far as I know an ass has an arse. This is a simple rule of containment. How could anyone get confused?

Yeah is sad, zoot. Bernice, you made me laugh with that one :)

estranjero said...

Of course there is a proliferation of Englishes. Are you really claiming never to have heard of dialect, Black English (from which we get the "-ass" formation), Indian English (photos of signs in The Age), Russian English (more properly, Slavic English), which does without the definite & indefinite articles, Jamaican English, Midlands, Yorkeshire, Glaswegian, and Irish English?

Dialect, by the way, is a political designation. It means the language spoken by those a long way from power.

Change of language very precisely follows change in power and poewr relations. Did not the school of Russian at ANU close shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the Soviet knight died inside his armour? Russian lost importance in the West (though still the language of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Ahkmatova) because the USSR was no longer the mysterious and evil twin of the other superpower, the nation that might do us all in, the nation and secrecy we had to understand.

What irritates beyond everything else in this thread is that people with an alleged interest in literature/language are carrying on as though they don't know the history and variety of their own language, let alone the history of anything else - or that we and everything around us are also history, temporary formations in the midst of passing.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Don't be a condescending prat, estranjero. Nobody here needs to have these things explained to them. If you are irritated then there is a very simple solution.

Anonymous said...

oooooh... estry, estry..

I lerve the variations in Englishes, and dialect, and kriol, and the sweet, salty rhythms of Glasgies and Rastamen, of Mumbai and Saskatoon.

But the only way we will keep these differences is by sustaining how we say the world.

Love our language, love our history. And that is the drum.

- barista

Bernice said...

Oh ANU probably closed its Russian language unit because of its singular failure to adjust to the new economic reality that all Aust unis must submit to. If only they'd had the foresight to link with the AWB to promote Russian language based business practice of the Putin kind.

BK said...

Black Knight feels that estranjero is partaking of some major point-missing.

I embrace English, in all her forms. She is the ultimate bastard language. She not only sleeps with foreigners for grammar and syntax, but robs their pockets for loose vocabulary while they sleep.

She chases other languages down dark alleys and seduces them, making them her own. That is her strength, not her weakness.

Therefore to say we must have an Australian Dictionary and a Black dictionary and an American Dictionary and a Yorkshire Dictionary (although I must admit the latter could be useful even to me, Pommie bastard that I am) is ridiculous.

Have you looked at the online version of the OED recently? It is the ultimate descriptive dictionary, and anyone - *anyone* - can submit attested definitions.

And it is why French, with its government's insistence on some bizarre notion of 'purity', has lost its place in the world's languages.

fxh said...

Here in Ireland it's arse, arse, arse, all the way, as in stick it up, or my arse it is, or can't be arsed.

The barman, my new best friend, tells me a story about a recent middle aged american female tourist who went for a bike ride and came back to the bar and announced loudly, in that way only americans (and australians)can; "After that ride my fanny is so numb and cold I'll have to warm it in front of a fire a give it a good rub"

Much painful snorting of Guinness up noses occurred.

Here those who write in the newspapers and talk on radio and tv are bemoaning the rapid and wide spread of "The Australian upward inflection at the end of a sentence"

So there. eh?

estranjero said...

P-Cat: Oh, I see. I interrupted a wank.

Barista: Linguistic differences arise from isolation. We are much less isolated, linguistically, than we were. But your implicit point is intriguing. Are the only differences we speak linguistic? If not, why won't a usable hoard of common words do?

I once read that accent evolved to prevent outsiders freeloading on the group, getting goods which they had not helped produce. The stranger is defined by accent and socially placed by it. Still. But accent is not vocabulary... Attempting to prevent/effect change by telling people what words they can't use won't work, short of genocide. Remember the schools on reservations where Amerind languages were forbidden, and only English could be spoken?

BK: Why not have dictionaries of all those languages/dialects? Ae you saying some aren't worthy? - & by the way, I did not say "we must have dictionaries of..." I said "I am at least bilingual in English". Neither put words in my mouth nor forbid me to do it myself, thanks.

Pavlov's Cat said...

When I grow up I want to be as nice as David.

FXH, I hope Ireland is fabulous? And that Scotland was equally fabulous? I'm so jealous?

Estranjero/j/whoever: let me get this straight. You interrupt a light-hearted group whinge with a convoluted, condescending, pretentious comment indicating that you've completely missed the point of the whole thread in general and BK's comment in particular, to say nothing of failing to pick up that most of the people in the discussion actually do have a fair to middling grasp of the histories and subtleties of how language works, and then you turn up again and say everyone else is a wanker.

Have I got that right?

BK said...


P-C, I think that's about right. Esperanto can shove it up hir arse, right?

PS. Got to share the wordbitch:


Is this a subliminal message?

TimT said...

'Ass' is acceptable in the term 'bad-ass', which really doesn't look good spelled any other way. However, 'arsehole, arsewipe, arselicker', etc, all look better spelled the Australian way. But language has room for both American vernacular and Australian vernacular! No need to be all snobby and exclusive about it.

Pavlov's Cat said...

TimT, I'm not sure you're getting the point either. It's political. The original rant was about American cultural imperialism, specifically as manifested in Americanisms taking over the language in Australia, and the particularly icky nature of that given our current poodle relationship with the US.

Nothing snobby and exclusive about that, just resistant. I don't mind who says 'ass' -- as long as they're saying it on the other side of the Pacific.

estranjero said...

If your whinge is political, take it up with your government.

Addressing that by telling everyone else what they can & can't say was exactly the French Academy's position.

Bernice said...

"I once read that accent evolved to prevent outsiders freeloading on the group, getting goods which they had not helped produce. The stranger is defined by accent and socially placed by it. Still." Quoth Estranjero. Ummmm - lamarkian linguistic development? Now there's an interesting notion.....

TimT said...

People have been worrying about American cultural imperialism for at least as long as I've been alive, which kind of indicates to me that concern about American cultural imperialism is a perennial cultural trait that distinguishes Australia and Australians. I'm not that worried about it, personally.

Zoe said...

estranjero, we may be idiots, but we're charming idiots.

You, sir*, are an arse-clown.

* Call it a wild guess.

Zoe said...

Reports of some progress, via this metafilter thread

Also, inexplicably many of the people I work with now say 'arse' instead of 'ass'. It was like a disease one winter.
posted by Alison at 5:06 AM PST on October 27

Pavlov's Cat said...

Great link, Z, ta.