Last week I looked at bollocks (in a manner of speaking). This week, as promised, I’m looking at arse. I almost couldn’t be arsed to do this, as I’ve had the plumbers in this week. They came to install a boiler that is big enough to power a small country, and the first thing they did was to chop through the gas pipe to our cooker. The boiler is so environmentally friendly that it blew a fuse after five hours and has since contributed nothing to any kind of warming. Mind you they worked their arses off, and hopefully the electrician will be able to get off his arse next week and come and work his magic on the wiring which is all arse backwards. But as Jim Royle would say, ‘Boilers? My arse!’
Arse in British English is the same as the American term ass. The pronunciation was apparently the same in Victorian times, but the Americans then changed to what they felt was a more polite version (I found that on the internet, and now can’t remember where I read it; I’d look it up again, but I can’t be arsed. Sorry).
According to an online dictionary (you can see there’s been no expense spared on this research) arse (n. slang) means:
- the buttocks
- the anus
- a stupid person; fool
Its roots are very old. According to the dictionary again, they are:
the Old English ærs meaning ‘tail, rump,’ from Proto-Germanic *arsoz (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse ars, Middle Dutch ærs, German Arsch “buttock”), cognate with Greek orros “tail, rump, base of the spine,” Hittite arrash, Armenian or “buttock,” Old Irish err “tail.”
Arse (aaaaaahhrs) is used in all sorts of phrases in British English.
I give you:
- a pain in the arse: a pain in the butt;
- an arse: an annoying person;
- arse about: as in stop arsing about and get on with your work.
- arse backwards: you’re doing it all wrong
- arse licker: a sycophant or obsequious person;
- arse over elbow or arse over tit: to trip up;
- arsed; to take the trouble to do something, as in, ‘I can’t be arsed’;
- arseholed: drunk;
- arsy: to be rude or uncooperative;
- arsy tarsy: pettish and flouncy
- as rough as a badger’s arse: describes a particularly bad personal state, either due to hangover as in ‘I feel as rough as a badger’s arse’, or to describe a not very attractive member of the opposite sex.
- face like a well skelpt arse!: a face like a slapped arse;
- she needs a kick up the arse: she needs some encouragement;
- tight as a duck’s arse: someone who is extrememly careful with their money
- you don’t know your arse from your elbow: you know nothing.
German playwright Goethe even used arse in his play Götz von Berlichingen where the hero says the king can lick his arse.
There’s also the phrase ‘running about like a blue-arsed fly’ meaning to be very busy. This could possibly come from ‘a blue house fly’ as there are parts of England where the pronunciation of house sounds just like arse. Cockney comedian Mickey Flanagan tells of how he went to New York and upset some girl by asking if could come up her ‘arse’ – when all he actually meant was that he wanted to pop round to hers for a cup of tea.
Talking of Cockneys, the cockney rhyming slang for arse is aris (bottle and glass, arse; aristotle, bottle).
According to the online urban dictionary ARSE is also an alternate name for the human enzyme Arylsulfatase E coded by the ARSE gene. One could therefore legitimately say: “Could you please hand me that jar of ARSE.” Or, “I think your ARSE gene is acting up.”
My favourite arse phrase is ‘my arse and parsley’: a Scottish term of derision meaning, ‘Aye, that’ll be right’ as in, ‘You’ve won the X Factor? My arse (or erse) and parsley.’ In England this is just shortened to, ‘My arse’. As in:
‘Ed Miliband is a great Labour leader.’
Which could possibly be followed up by, ‘He’s about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest.’
I leave you with Father Jack:
All picture via Creative Commons, courtesy of:
Devils house: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eepaul/3862425051/