I was reminded that I’d been meaning to write about this one by a Facebook friend who linked to an ad posted on Craigslist, 4/24/12: “I am in need of someone who will cook (not microwave) and dangle bacon in front of my starving face while running to the YMCA. The objective is to trick my arse into working out. ”

The OED’s first citation for arse, with that spelling, to refer to a person or animal’s posterior is from 1480. There are multitudinous variations over the years, including this exchange from Ben Jonson’s 1602 “Poetaster”: ” Cris. They say, he’s valiant. Tvcc. Valiant? so is mine arse.” Ooh, snap.

The common and traditional U.S. term, of course, is ass. The OED says of this word: “vulgar and dialect sp. and pronunciation of arse. Now chiefly U.S.”
Its citations for ass are nearly all American, one exception being this from William Golding’s 1959 Free Fall:  “You sit on your fat ass in your ‘ouse all the week.”

Arse and ass look different in print. However, in Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard, they would sound the same. This site offers British and American pronunciations of arse. The former is non-rhotic. The latter is risible in the exaggerated New York accent it affects.

In My Fair Lady (Broadway: 1956, film version: 1964), written by the American Alan Jay Lerner, Eliza Doolittle famously shouts out at the racetrack scene, “Come on, Dover, move yer bloomin’ arse!” That, anyway, is the spelling one finds on the internet; I don’t have access to the libretto or screenplay. I also don’t have access to the Broadway or soundtrack record albums. I would suspect that Julie Andrews, the original Liza, says it non-rhotically; probably Audrey Hepburn in the movie version as well.  Someone please let me know if that’s not the case.

Arse has been around for a long time in the U.S. as a sort of literary novelty item. Donald Barthleme’s first novel, “Snow White,” contained a chapter titled THE FAILURE OF SNOW WHITE’S ARSE. A 1971 letter by the anglophile S.J. Perelman noted that some New Yorker contributors ”tend to have a ramrod up their arse, acting as though they invented the paper.” (I would say that paper, to refer to a magazine, is a Britishism as well.)

Moving up to the present, arse has become a vogue term in the U.S. in recent years, very much analogous to shite. A 2010 comment on a New York Times blog post by someone who signs him- or herself “AmericanYankee” says: “The last thing I want is for bin Laden and his sycophantic arse kissing illiterate supporters to think they are somehow special.”

Just two days ago, blogging his displeasure about the New York Times at Esquire.com just two days, Charles Pierce comments, “This is all my arse.” And bringing it all back home, a commenter on his post writes, “The Times is, for the most part, irrelevant, and this sort of link-trolling crap should be ignored. It only encourages more shite.”

120 thoughts on ““Arse”

  1. I use this word way too much (unfortunately), but in the context of using it to replace “bother”, as in “I can’t be arsed to leave the house today.” Not old enough to know how Julie Andrews would’ve said it, but all I can say is I haven’t heard anyone here in the UK pronounce it non-rhotically.

    1. I can’t be arsed to list all the instances in which I use “arse” or the various parts of speech it can be made to serve. As for non-rhotic pronunciation being “standard” in the UK, that is bollocks. In fact, it’s arse-about-face. Non-rhotic pronunciation is largely a REGIONAL characteristic peculiar to the south-east and a CLASS one affected by the 2% who speak “RP”

      1. The vast majority of England’s population is non-rhotic — the only exceptions are in the West Country and rural Lancashire.

        You’re probably thinking of the TRAP-BATH split — whereby, for example, words likke “bath” sound like the first syllable of “father” rather than that of “gather”. That is a characteristic of roughly half the English population. In the south, it’s found in all social classes — in fact it probably originated centuries ago in the popular speech of the areas south and east of London.

  2. SO would it be correct to assume that while “ass” can also be used to refer to a donkey that “arse” cannot?

  3. “In Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard, they would sound the same.”
    This isn’t true, at least not of any Brits I know. Americans might pronounce “arse” like ass, but Brits don’t. Long a versus short a.

    Same thing with the British and American pronunciation of “bastard” (though the spelling is the same in this case): baaaarstard v. bastard.

    And to Sarah — yes, ass can be a donkey, arse could only be the rear end of a donkey: an ass’s arse. Fortunately we have “horse’s ass” as a useful critique of a foolish person, so don’t need another version of same — although my well-spoken parents, who’d never have said “arse,” were willing at times to describe someone as a “silly ass” (as in donkey). I believe ass (again, donkey) is one of the few surviving Celtic words in the English language.

    1. “I believe ass (again, donkey) is one of the few surviving Celtic words in the English language.”

      I believe you’re wrong; “ass” as in donkey had a Pedigree – it’s straight out of Latin.

    2. You’ll hear “bastard” pronounced with both long and short “a” in different parts of Britain – the North East, particularly, uses a very short “a”, and a non-rhotic second syllable too. I’m not sure about the whole of Scotland, certainly Glaswegians would use a short “a”, but I’m not sure that that would be true of the whole of the country.

    3. Don’t agree about pronunciation of “bastard”. People from the West Midlands to the Scots border don’t say “baaaarstard” at all, but use a short “a”, often (as in West Yorkshire) a VERY short one. In Scotland, the sound gets elongated but “aaaaa” doesn’t represent it well at all.

    1. I’m a bit too young to remember Julie Andrews playing Eliza Doolittle, but those of us who grew up with her as Mary Poppins probably find it a little difficult to imagine her using the word at all…

  4. @Ben:
    Arse and ass look different in print. However, in Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard, they would sound the same.

    You have opened a can of worms here, Ben.

    First, Scots will rightly take offen{s|c}e at the claim that non-rhotic pronunciation is standard “in Britain”.

    Secondly, the pronunciation of “ass” with the vowel of “fAther” or “spA” is extremely old-fashioned, possibly obsolete, in England. Almost everyone pronounces it with the vowel of trAp these days — meaning that it does not sound the same as “arse”.

    1. Not true I’m afraid. Pretty much everyone south of the Midlands pronounces “arse” as it is spelt – like the beginning of the word “arsenal”. Occasionally people will say “ass” but usually that’s for effect.

      1. Ben is not talking about “arse”: he’s talking about the word “ass”. It used to be common to pronounce that word so that it rhymed (for southerners) with “pass” and “class” — especially in the phrase “silly ass”.

  5. Ahem! “However, in Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard, they would sound the same.” That’s like, totally racist, man. England, please.

    It’s kind of an interesting pronunciation though, because it varies enormously from place to place. I thought it changing to “ass” in American English was due to immigration from England’s West Country, where “arse” would be pronounced “aaaas” (ooh arr (look, I had a West Country accent as a child; I’m allowed)). Write that down as it sounds and you get “ass”.

    An American friend of mine said they liked the word “arse” because it sounds more contemptuous. I can kind of see that.

    1. “Arse”/”Ass” is one of a group of words where some dialects lost R before S many centuries ago (well before any English colonialists had set foot in the New World). The R-less versions are often more prominent in today’s American English.

      Other examples are “burst”/”bust” and “curse”/”cuss”.

      1. Never read Romeo & Juliet? Shakespeare wrote before there was any such entity as the UK, as did many others.

  6. The non-rhotic pronunciation is based on Received Pronunciation and its variations, stemming from the dialect of southeastern England. The Scots and the Irish, the Welsh and various other dialects in the United Kingdom, pronounce the “r,” in many cases trilling it (in Scotland, for example).

    1. Yes, and RP is spoken by about 2% and declining rapidly as posh teenagers do their best to get rid of it to avoid ridicule.

  7. “I would say that paper, to refer to a magazine, is a Britishism as well.”

    Not, I think – in nearly 40 years in journalism, I’ve never heard any British journo call a “mag” a “paper”. “Paper”, in my experience, is only used to refer to the newsprint product, not anything printed on glossy stock.

      1. The Economist uses this regularly to refer to itself; I assume because it is focused on news, like a newspaper?

      2. RR – No: it’s because the Economist is pretentious. To call a magazine a paper sounds very ‘superior’ to my ears. Some people in Britain do so, but they usually think they are of ‘superior’ stock. They would see it as beneath them to read a mere magazine.

      3. So, why should the Economist be regarded as a magazine, despite being focused on news content? Not all newspapers are daily (eg,The Observer), so that can’t be the reason. Is it just the higher quality paper and the size of the pages?

    1. “Paper” in publication terms is also used in academic circles to describe a publication (usually much shorter than a full length book) in the nature of a treatise or proposal for discussion and comment by other academics. Magazines are magazines/mags, while the majority of newspapers are simply “rags”.

    2. My partner’s family when talking about their magazines, call them books.

  8. To add to the above a a Welshman I can vouch that the R is very much pronounced – even my Scottish friends are amazed at the way I roll mine. I can go back to the early – mid 70s – when I was in infant school, and recall my great aunts and uncles having a conversation based on the fact that an Arse was either a bum or a stupid person, an Ass was always an animal.

    1. Oh aye, the Welsh “r” is amazing! I’m with you on the “ass only as an animal” thing. I’ve never, ever taken to it as another word for arse, the blame for which I lay on reading so much Chronicles of Narnia as a child. The characters were continually saying things like “don’t be such an ass, Peter!”, obviously meaning “donkey”. Read the other way, it sounds like the Pevensies have gone street, thrown away their swords and shields and started bustin’ caps in people’s…er… donkies.

  9. My trio of musicians, 3R Souls, have gone non-rhotic *despite* the lack of the “a.”

    It makes us feel cool and rebellious.

    You know, cool and rebellious fifty-year-old businessmen with instruments. . . .

  10. For what it’s worth, “arse” has always been the preferred form in Atlantic Canada, where the (generally very much rhotic) English has very strong Irish and Scottish (and, on Newfoundland, West Country) influences.

  11. Following a heavily soiled van through London I noticed that someone had inscribed in the dirt on the back, ‘R.Send’.

    1. And I recall years ago following a car down Clare Street in Cardiff when I suddenly realised its number plate [NOOB] was OBO110X. Classic!

  12. Arse and ass would sound nothing like each other in the north of England either. And being half Welsh (mongrel that I am), my Welsh relatives would roll the r and make sure it was rhotic with knobs on!
    The only places in England that might have a long enough ‘a’ in ass to make it sound like arse would be the West Country and South Shropshire. Don’t know what an old Gloucestershire accent might do to it.

    As for shite, I long ago assumed it to be the Northern English variant but it is the old form in both Northumbrian English (ancestor of Northern English and the English spoken in Scotland) and Midland English (ancestor of modern English). It probably just hangs on in the north of England because we’re linguistically conservative.

    1. I have heard for many years the expression ‘Gob shite’ as someone who talks a load of bollocks.Discuss

      1. Indeed. It rather suggests someone who never shuts up talking bollocks, too.

        “Shite” is extremely common in Scotland, as in “Awa an bile yer heid inna bucket o shite”.* Unfortunately, politicians rarely make open air speeches these days, so the expression may less used than in the past.
        TRANSLATION: “Kindly go elsewhere and boil your head in a receptacle containing faecal material. Thenk you very much.”

      2. Growing up in Ayrshire ‘gobshite’ was someone who slated you behind your back “see when I see Jimmy, ahm gonny leather the wee gobshite” can also be used for someone you just don’t like, and a close mate ‘awwrite ya gobshite, getting the drinks in?”

      3. From Middle English bum (“buttocks, bottom”), a syncopated form of Middle English botym (“bottom”). Compare also Old Irish, Scottish Gaelic bun (“base, bottom”). More at bottom.

    2. “Shite” is also very common in Irish English – and Liverpool in particular has a large Irish population, which probably accounts for its popularity in the North West of England.

  13. Ass probably is Latin. Quite a few Welsh words came from Latin as they lived underoman rule for about 360 years, so a ‘Celtic’ origin would have looked plausible.

    1. What is in question is the origin of “donkey”. No-one is quite sure where it comes from- the first cite of it is in 1784. One theory is that it largely replaced “ass” because of prissiness (as rabbit replaced coney and rooster replaced cock, especially in America).

    2. It is Latin. “Asinus” is a sub-genus of Equus and the common donkey is Equus asinus africanus. There are several other wild sub-species which are also Equus asinus + some other distinguishing name.

  14. Perhaps already addressed but we British (I am English, living in the western USA) do indeed pronounce our R’s (we consider the Americans to multiply the R’s in words) – no non-rhetoric pronunciation standard at all by the Brits. Ass and Arse are not the same word with merely a different spelling, we have both in our vocabulary; Ass means donkey or mule (in my childhood we’d often call someone a donkey as a polite insult) and Arse means your rearend/bum/backside/butt <== this last term is terribly American.

    1. Butt in the UK usually refers to the discarded end of a fag -but that’s another word which means something completely different in the USA.

      1. not in the southern U.S. . One does not hear it as often but we know the term

    2. Perhaps already addressed but we British (I am English, living in the western USA) do indeed pronounce our R’s

      We think we do, but we don’t — at least in words like “arse” 🙂

      Look at this way — for most people in southern England, “arse” and “pass” rhyme. If the “R” is pronounced in “arse”, then how can it rhyme with “pass”, when “pass” contains no “R”? Only the rhotic areas (West Country and rural Lancashire) actually pronounce the “R” in “arse”.

      1. Sorry- but IME nonsense. “Arse” and “ass” are different words, If anyone pronounces “arse” to rhyme with “pass”, it’s because they’re pronouncing “pass” like the first syllable of “parcel”. There’s no R in “bath” either, but in quite a lot of the country it’s pronounced like “barth”, “grass” is pronounced like “grarss” and so on.

        It’s the remnant of a vowel shift many years ago, when the North shifted back to a flat “A” and the South, on the whole, didn’t.

        Similarly, some people pronounce “scone” to rhyme with “stone”, and some pronounce it to rhyme with “gone”.

      2. @znepj

        OK I’ll try again.

        Consider the words “father” and “farther”. Those words rhyme, or sound identical, for the vast majority of English people (basically, everyone outside the rural west country and Lancashire). If they sound the same for you, then you are non-rhotic.

        For Scots, Irish and North Americans, “father” and “farther” do not sound the same at all — there is a consonantal sound in “farther” that is somewhat similar to the “R” sound at the beginning of words like “red”. That sound is completely lacking in “father”.

        Now, even for the 90+% of the English population that is non-rhotic, there are two possible pronunciations of words like “bath” — one in which the vowel is similar to that in “gather”, and one in which the vowel is similar to “father”. The first pronunciation predominates in the north; the second in the south. In the south, this is true among all social classes — it’s not a class-based thing there. This is often known among linguists as the BATH-TRAP split.

        For what it’s worth, it’s actually the northern pronunciation that is older. The southern pronunciation was the result of a development some centuries ago in the popular accents around London.

      3. It ain’t rural Lancashire only; short ‘A’s’ and rhotic rs (no pun, etc.) are well common in Manc City.

        (Manchester expat in Philadelphia, USA.)

      4. Because we pronounce ‘pass’ and grass’ with a long ‘a’ sound – unlike Northern England.

  15. Even for a non-rhotic person (like me, as Londoner), arse and ass are pronounced completely differently – I pronounce arse as “aaase” and ass as, well, “ass”.

  16. Reminds me of the old limerick which works in print, but spoken would only work in AmE:

    There was a young girl from Madras
    Who had a most glorious ass
    Not rounded and pink, as you probably think,
    But grey, with long ears and ate grass.

      1. Not in northwest London. I think you’ll find the majority of folk in the UB, HA and NW post code areas definitely pronounce it Mad – rass (to rhyme with the fish, wrasse), except of course they were born there, in which case I cannot comment.

        Arse rhymes with farce; ass rhymes gas.

        Simples? No?

    1. Actually, it works just fine in UK English too- we’re familiar enough with US idiom to get the “ass” reference- and despite what some are claiming, very few people here pronounce “ass” with anything but a flat A, even if they say “grass” to sound like grahs.

  17. “However, in Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard” – it may be in RP (Received Pronunciation as used by the aristocracy and formerly by the BBC), and in many parts of England, but it would be misleading to imply that it’s by any means universal in the UK. The Scots and Northern Irish pronounce ‘r’s in every circumstance, as do people in surprisingly large swathes of England – in the southwest from Bristol right through to Cornwall, virtually the whole of East Anglia, plus populous parts of the north such as Lancashire.

    Indeed it causes regular grumbling when the London-centric media and advertising industries invariably make puns or use wordplay which only work with non-rhotic pronunciation – I used to walk past an estate agent’s in London every day whose slogan was “Baron’s Court – Highly Sought”….

    1. Even in RP, the R is pronounced- look at any Hugh Grant film.
      Ass rhymes with grass- arse rhymes with farce.
      I’ve never heard any Brit pronounce arse the same as ass, except possibly in the phrase “silly ass” – but who’s to know whether the speaker meant a grey animal or a backside- either works.

      1. I’m pretty sure that Hugh Grant would pronounce Grass much more like farce that short-“a”- Ass.
        And a Brit saying “Silly ass” will almost always mean the animal, and generally mean it as quite a mild term.

      2. Ass only rhymes with grass (short ‘a’) if you’re from somewhere Oop ‘t North (of England). For a non-rhotic Southerner, arse (ahss) rhymes just fine with grass (grahss) as well as farce (fahss) – but ass is still distinct.

        If a British speaker says “silly ass”, then that’s what they say – otherwise it would definitely be “silly arse”, whether or not the r was clearly pronounced. The difference is in the vowel length.

      3. Jon H – Yes, except that ‘just fine’ is a grizzly Americanism. To my English ears it should be something like ‘…rhymes perfectly with…’

      4. Similarly, Jon, “pretty sure” is another grizzly Americanism. I’m reasonably certain you meant to write “surely pretty”. And I’m pretty sure you are too – just fine!

    2. Seems reasonable for an advertisement of an estate agent in London to rhyme court with sought, that’s how I as a Londoner would pronounce court. My wife, who grew up in Wiltshire, regularly teases me for pronouncing “warm” as “waam”.

      1. No longer common in Sussex, I fear, as the old Sussex accent has virtually disappeared to be replaced by a sort of generic sub-London. I’m not sure if it clings on in the far west of Sussex, beyond Chichester, but it doesn’t in central or east Sussex except amongst the very old.

    3. Reading through this thread, I would have said that I (a Brit) do pronounce the R in arse, but then the estate agent’s slogan makes me think about how I would pronounce sort, which I think would sound identical to how I would pronounce sought. So maybe I’m not really pronouncing the R. Would those two words sound different pronounced by an American? Or a Scot?

      1. Yes — although Americans pronounce “ass” with the vowel of TRAP.

        A better example would be “father” vs. “farther”. Americans, Scots, and rhotic accents generally will pronounce these words differently.

  18. “Arse and ass look different in print. However, in Britain, where non-rhotic (that is, silent r) pronunciation is the standard, they would sound the same.”

    Nope. “Ass” uses the same type of “a” sound as “apple” in Britain, non-rhotic pronunciation is pretty much never applied to it. For the rear end, we say “arse” and we spell it “arse” too – we don’t say “arse” thinking it’s spelled “ass”.

      1. Spelled or spelt are both acceptable past forms of “spell”- check your OED. If anything, the irregular form “spelt” is losing ground to the regular “spelled”, especially among those who use “spelt” for an ancient strain of wheat. 🙂

  19. Being from Yorkshire, son of Scots, both my parents and I would very definitely pronounce the ‘a’ of ‘arse’ as a long vowel, however they would very much pronounce the ‘r’ as well, whereas I would not. The words ‘arse’ and ‘ass’ in a Yorkshire accent may both be non-rhotic, but sound nowt like each other due to the length of the vowel.

    1. That’s true of “arse” in Yorkshire, but not of “bastard”, as discussed above. I assume you would pronounce that with a very short Yorkshire “a”, whereas your parents would use a much longer, more nasal, vowel not really represented by “aaaa” at all. That is, if your parents ever say “bastard” at all!

      1. I’m rather late to this fascinating discussion but if you wish to hear how that icon of South Yorkshire manliness Sean Bean pronounces bastard then the link below may well be of interest.
        Sean Bean – Yorkshireman- Bastard Compilation

  20. I suspect you may have to explain ‘nowt’ to our American friends!
    At the risk of opening another can of worms, I was totally mystified by the whole long/short ‘a’ business when I first moved to England – as you’ll know they’re all exactly the same length in Scotland!

    1. There was a vowel shift some centuries back- from a flat “a” to a long “a” in a lot of words (e.g. “grass” became “graarse”). Parts of the country shifted again, mainly the North, but the South on the whole didn’t. There are similar issues over words like “scone” – I would rhyme it with “gone”, ‘er indoors would rhyme it with “stone”.

      1. “I asked the maid in dulcet tone
        To being to me a buttered scone
        The silly girl has been and gone
        And brought to me a buttered scone.”

    2. Or “owt”. Coming from Glasgow to Leeds aged 12, I was mystified by “We Buy Owt”. Does Leeds still have any tatty shops displaying such a sign? I would like to think so, but doubt it.

      “Owt” and “nowt” are just preservations in a northern phonetic spelling (used in Lancashire, too, of course) of the forms now thought archaic of “aught” and “naught”

  21. The irish pronunciation of Arse definitely uses the “R” as in “arrrrrrse” . You can hear it in this video from the tv series father Ted (along with an irishism, “feck”)

  22. All the British people in Japan laugh their arses off at the Japanese pronunciation of “earth”. Especially when combined with a powerful aerosol insecticide.

  23. Reading a book with the unfortunate line
    ‘…adding a small pen-knife to my arse-
    which didn’t all fit on one line. I laughed and winced – sounds painful!

    1. This is a well-known trick of the old trade of type-setting. The same happens with cock-
      tail at the ends of lines, you might even find the town of Scunt-
      horpe badly split but that would have been pushing it.

      It’s just a game which they used to amuse themselves with before the digital age arrived, and once you know about it you spot it everywhere – I’m sitting here trying to think of other words that would produce this effect but I’m too weary!

  24. An amusing thread!

    I’ve always considered that the American expression: “(couldn’t give a ) rat’s ass” sounds so much better in its ‘native’ form – probably due to the preceding short ‘a’ in ‘rat’. Even as a Briton, I wouldn’t dream of saying ‘rat’s arse’ – even if I could be arsed!

  25. I can think of only two occasions when I’ve heard “ass” pronounced as “arse” in UK English. Back in the sixties, the ventriloquist Ray Alan had a dummy called Lord Charles, whose catchphrase was “What a silly ass”, but with the long ‘a’ which made it sound like “arse”. Very naughty on the BBC in those days but he got away with it.

    Edith Sitwell’s verses for William Walton’s musical work Facade has a couplet that rhymes “ass” with “pass” and “grass”: “Long steel grass – The white soldiers pass – The light is braying like an ass”. With my London accent, only the first two would rhyme. When the BBC were comparing recordings of the work a few years ago, only two reciters made all these words rhyme. One was Sitwell herself and the other was an American, and. of course they used different vowel sounds.

    This long ‘a’ sound, a southern and posh pronunciation, also survived into the sixties in the word “plastic”. If you watch the film A Clockwork Orange, the scene where Alex goes to prison and the warder is taking an inventory of his possessions, the warder says, “One comb, plahstic.”

    1. You’re *assuming* he meant “silly ass.” Perhaps he meant “Silly arse”. I’ve never heard even soft shandy-drinking southerners like Hugh Grant say “ass” to sound like “arse”.

      “Arse” has never been one of the Forbidden Words you couldn’t say on the Beeb (or not since the 60s, anyway). You just couldn’t say it before mid-evening.

      1. Well, in some respects he meant both, but he could only get away with it because the upper classes in those days did pronounce “ass” with a long ‘a’. This was the early sixties, and on a programme on early enough in the evening for me to be watching it – I would have been about ten at the time. I knew “arse” was a rude word, and this would probably have been the first time I heard it on TV.

        But if you really want to hear someone pronounce “ass” as “arse”, try the Sitwell recording of Facade. I think it’s available on Spotify. She was born in 1887, so it’s probably an accent that has died out now.

  26. I’m surprised this has gone on so long, and I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding. This has nothing to do with northern/southern dialects – even southerners who pronounce “pass” to rhyme with “parse” don’t do the same with “ass”. If they say “arse” then they mean arse, not donkey.

    Over thirty years in the army I must have heard most British dialects, not to mention plentiful use of the word “arse”, and I can’t think of one in which “ass” and “arse” are not readily distinguishable. Even when the “r” is not pronounced it still modifies the vowel sound. The “a” in “arse” sounds like the “a” in “hard”, irrespective of whether the “r” is pronounced; the “a” in “ass” sounds like the “a” in “gas”. I don’t believe either southern Brits or Americans fill their cars up with garse.

  27. As a youngster I lived near Baaath(Bath) my wife from oop north says BAth, hard A.I also lived near Froooom(Frome) but my wife ,or any one not from Somerset would call it FrOme,hard O.

  28. On a side note, I had always thought that the word “ass,” as in a donkey, is where the word “ass” as in …well…ass… came from. You know, “Get off your ass,” Get off and walk, don’t be a lazy arse and let the ass carry you all the way!” Of course, I couldn’t be arsed to tell you how that came out of my ass.

  29. Arse and ass are definately pronounced pronounced differently. “ass” as in a’-ss an “arse” as in aaaarrrr-s

  30. Aye, ‘arse’ and ‘ass’ do sound different everywhere in the UK. However, ‘barrrstarrrd’ is a more southern way of saying the word, whereas in the North there’d be some who said it like that (but with less emphasis on the R sounds) and some who pronounced it with short As.

    Just stumbled across this blog, and very much enjoying it. Good show and top hole, old bean!

  31. One of those silly punish quips that we Brits are unfortunately so fond of:-
    Cop: How did you kill your girlfriend?
    Suspect: I poisoned her. I gave her arse-a-nick

  32. EXTRACT FROM “ODE TO SPRING” Rab Burns -1795
    There Damon lay, with Sylvia gay,
    To love they thought no crime, Sir:
    The wild-birds sang, the echoes rang,
    While Damons arse beat time, Sir. –

    First with the thrush, his thrust and push
    Had compass large and long, Sir;
    The blackbird next, his tuneful text,
    Was bolder, clear and strong, Sir:
    The linnet’s lay then came in play,
    And the lark that soar’d aboon, Sir;
    Till Damon fierce, mistimed his arse,
    And fucked quite out of tune, Sir.

    Rab Burns -1795

  33. This isn’t quite as badly rhymed as it looks in the last couple of lines- it would have been read in a Scots accent, in which “arse” sounds more like “airse”.

  34. It should be noted – and maybe it has been but I can’t be arsed to read it all (and I”m too lazy to do a search also) – that the Irish say ‘arse’ with the R and ending with ‘uh’. A long time mate who is from the Republic of Ireland and I had a talk about the word since Americans say it one way, Brits another and Irish another. Australian also say it like either ‘ass’ or as I do (both) below.

    As for me I typically say either ‘ass’ or more like ‘ahse’ but it’s almost always the former. I always spell it ‘arse’ unless I’m talking about a donkey, an animal that gets far too much shit. And on that note it should be pointed out (since it was referenced) that ‘shite’ is although British I have only seen my Irish mate spell it that way.

  35. “Shite” is common in the NW of England, especially Liverpool – though that’s not surprising due to the large Irish contribution to the population,

    And “shit” and “shite” are not quite the same; “shite” is more emphatic.

  36. Nothing to do with a rhotic R or the Bath Trap split. And the Brits pronounce ass just like the Americans, and always have. It just has one less meaning.

    Rhotic R – whether or not you pronounce the R in a word, e.g. car is pronounced kah (non rhotic) or kaR (rhotic). But note – there is an R in the spelling in both cases. It’s just that some (not all) Brits do not pronounce it. Ass has no R in the spelling so has nothing to do with rhoticity.

    Bath Trap split – Americans pronounce the A in bath and trap the same way with a short A. Some (but not all) Brits pronounce bath as ‘bahth’, likewise grass, castle etc. But pretty well every English speaker pronounces trap with a short A. There is an R is arse, so nothing to do with the Bath Trap Split.

    And Brits pronounce ass just like the Americans. Again, no Bath Trap Split issue here. Ass means a donkey and can also be used for someone who is foolish or stubborn, hence “don’t be ass”, “silly ass” etc. They refer to the animal, not anatomy.

    So why the difference? Two possibilities.
    1) American prudishness about earthy Anglo Saxonisms, along the lines of bathroom when there’s no bath (and especially silly given that toilet is already a euphemism itself) and why Hollywood married couples had twin beds. So they found a euphemism.
    2) Loss of the R in the spelling as well as the pronunciation, as has also happened with cuss (from curse) and hoss (from horse).

    Either way, the original word is ARSE and the Americans changed it. The only issue is why.

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