Some Notes On 'Asshat'
May 11, 2022 4:03 PM   Subscribe

"Asshat may not be the first word you draw from your quiver when seeking to adequately describe someone for whom you feel some measure of distaste. It’s fine by us if you choose not to use the word, but given its status in our language we would be remiss in our duties if we failed to provide it with a definition."
posted by shoesfullofdust (83 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not sure if I should mark this NSFW because 'asshat' is mainly a word that I have heard only at work or in reference to non-human animals. The majority of whom (non-human animals) do not have jobs as far as I can discern. They are neither paying taxes nor voting in a rational manner. Also, I do co-habitate with several plants who obviously do not have jobs but who are otherwise seriously engaged in high-level asshattery. FML
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:04 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


cf "turd burglar"
posted by etherist at 4:07 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Previously on MetaFilter: Please stop the asshattery
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:09 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Asshaberdashers
posted by cubeb at 4:14 PM on May 11 [14 favorites]


I did not expect it to appear so quickly, but thank you, IRFH! There's history!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:14 PM on May 11


A coworker once wore a pair of surplus military fatigues with several pockets, including one that spanned the entire upper butt area. That day saw the birth of the term asspocket, which has never left my vocabulary.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:19 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]


the etymological note we have describes the linking of ass and hat as “seemingly nonsensical”

I always assumed it was a pithier version of “someone who has their head up their ass.”
posted by doubtfulpalace at 4:19 PM on May 11 [35 favorites]


Hmm. I've always thought of asshat as gendered. Anyone can act like an asshat, but if I give someone the title of asshat they're usually male.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:20 PM on May 11


A cultured and erudite explication. Now do "fuckwit."
posted by bryon at 4:23 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


I feel like there's probably some proto-coinage that involved 'wearing your ass like a hat' in the sense of having your head shoved up your ass, or threatening to shove someone's head up their ass. It's a line that would be at home in disposable 80s comedy or action and would've been PG-13 at worst.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:26 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Previously on MetaFilter: Please stop the asshattery

I probably haven't heard that in 15 years, and yet the tune was instantly front and center in my brain upon reading the title.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:30 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


And why would one not want a sweet asshat, pray tell?
posted by pipeski at 4:31 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


From the article:
The use of this word has, over the past two decades, spread considerably, and it may now be found even among the most urbane and sophisticated speakers of English; the following citation is taken from a recent interview with the editor in chief of The American Heritage Dictionary:
In the case of pronoun usage, it really comes down to: Are you being a nice person or an asshat?”
— Steve Kleinedler (interviewed by Sarah Grey), Conscious Style Guide (consciousstyleguide.com), “Conscious Language in the American Heritage Dictionary,” 22 Feb. 2018
Just wanted to throw a little *chef's kiss* to Merriam-Webster for citing a quote from the editor-in-chief of a rival dictionary to bolster the case for the word "asshat". Just perfect.
posted by mhum at 4:31 PM on May 11 [15 favorites]




Asshaberdashers

The proper term is assmillner.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:35 PM on May 11 [14 favorites]


fuckwit. Cambridge has that one.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:43 PM on May 11


"Ass clown" seems to have faded away, which is a shame. It gave me a huge fit of the giggles when I first heard it, but that was the early 2000s, when a lot of things seemed different.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:55 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


Ass clown may have been lost, but _🤡_ is experiencing a renaissance
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:56 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Asshaberdashers
posted by cubeb

Beaten to the punch slightly on the joke, as noted, but I use the term "asshaberdashery" to indicate "a particularly large and extravagant collection of asshats".
posted by notoriety public at 5:02 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


"asshaberdashery" This will be noted and added to the lexicon. In time.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:15 PM on May 11


The Asshaberdasher.
posted by clavdivs at 5:16 PM on May 11


timing
posted by clavdivs at 5:17 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


I have never heard anyone say “asshead.” In my dialect that has apparently been completely replaced by “butthead.”

I appreciate the note at the end of the article about hyphen placement.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:32 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


we often say that a thing is "Ass-tastic"
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:40 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Assmilliner, NoxÆternum. Assmilliner.

While haberdasher is not the term for one who sells hats, although they are not prevented from doing so, milliner is a term specifically for one who manufactures and sells womens hats. There apparently, and I may be wrong here, is not a dictionary term for one who chiefly sells men’s hats, though here in Texas we commonly refer to them as hatters.

/removes asshat.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 5:58 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


here in Texas we commonly refer to them as hatters.

Hatters gonna hat.
posted by notoriety public at 6:05 PM on May 11 [17 favorites]


we often say that a thing is "Ass-tastic"

A similar usage is "getting up at ass o'clock," which makes me laugh a bit and helps me when I do in fact have to get up at ass o'clock
posted by Countess Elena at 6:05 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


Assqhanna Hat Co.
750 Bagel Street.
Niagara Falls, New York.
posted by clavdivs at 6:07 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


When you want to call someone an asshole, but that's too harsh, there's asshat. It's silly so it takes the edge off. An asshole is a dirty anatomical hole, so it's very bad to call someone that. By contrast, an asshat is a hat that covers the ass from view (I picture it as a top hat). So in fact it does us all a favor and could be regarded with merit if not for by its ineluctible association with ass, through which it perforce becomes a perjorative after all. But it's not as bad as asshole.
posted by hypnogogue at 6:31 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


That day saw the birth of the term asspocket, which has never left my vocabulary.

R.L. Burnside may have a quibble with you about the birth of the term, depending upon the year of your coworker's fashion choice: A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:43 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


No assfedoras? Seems like a missed opportunity somehow.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:59 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Something something asstrilby.
posted by Night_owl at 7:08 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I have never heard anyone say “asshead.” In my dialect that has apparently been completely replaced by “butthead.”

I had a roommate who used “ass-head” (you could hear the hyphen) as a term of brotherly affection. A bunch of people in our cohort picked it up for a while.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:09 PM on May 11


Countess Elena, is that derived from the ass crack of dawn? I've run into that expression many times.
posted by Hactar at 7:11 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


But it's not as bad as asshole.

For the definitive word on the asshat-adjacent see Geoffrey Nunberg's 2012 Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years in which he cites others but keeps coming back to the examples of George S. Patton, Steve Jobs and Donald Trump.
posted by Rash at 7:14 PM on May 11


Arschgeige


Arsch GEIGE
posted by lalochezia at 7:27 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


It’s arse.
posted by jjderooy at 7:45 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Haberdassher, surely?
posted by eviemath at 7:52 PM on May 11


And why would one not want a sweet asshat, pray tell?

Bring me a bottle of high quality silicone personal lubricant and I will demonstrate.

While it's not a requirement, be aware that you may want to emulate early NASA astronauts and eat what is known as a "low residue diet" for a couple of days before the demonstration.
posted by loquacious at 7:57 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


But it's not as bad as asshole.

Agreed. And it's more pejorative/profane than "jackass" in my estimation.
posted by straight at 8:04 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Assqhanna Hat Co.

"Home of the brimjob."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:12 PM on May 11 [11 favorites]


"... renowned European singing sensation, Notalen Tasscloune ..."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:14 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


What? Asshat was a thing because Fark.com was a Thing in the late 90s and early 2000s. To get around workplace content filters of that era, Fark, an early web aggregator with non-threaded discussion forums and a userbase with access to workplace-provided or pirated installs of Adobe Photoshop, trivially censored nearly all North American English profanity from user posts and comments. I heard “asshat” on LA’s Kevin & Bean morning radio show in 2001, when they were getting a lot of their content directly from Fark.

So yeah, asshat was just so people could say asshole without being punished for saying asshole.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:25 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Assmilliner

Noo! We will not let you go --
posted by The otter lady at 8:40 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


Let me go!
posted by calgirl at 8:45 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Sometimes when I'm thinking visually:
'Hey Suleiman, whatcha got under there?'
"ASS. And it's magnificent."
posted by bartleby at 8:48 PM on May 11


Local grocery store's habit of shortening "assorted" to "ass" has given me many moments of quiet joy.

Favourites include ass muffins and ass quiche.
posted by Zumbador at 8:52 PM on May 11 [11 favorites]


The closest I ever heard of the phrase originally was "I like your ass. Can I wear it as a hat?"

I went looking on Ravelry to see if I found anything...appropriate...but this hat with "asshat" written on it (Ravelry-only link) is as close as that got.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:32 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I was going to write a novel called ‘Snarking Asshats’ about on online community, but I think the moment has passed.
posted by Phanx at 1:40 AM on May 12


How do people feel about "ass" spelt the British way ("arse")? More offensive? Less so?
posted by Paul Slade at 1:53 AM on May 12


In England, the preferred nomenclature is bottombowler.

Arse as a general term is of course more correct, but much too vulgar for daily use.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:54 AM on May 12


(Oh sorry Paul, fellow North Londoner, didn't see it was you. Well you know what I was going for anyway, I suppose. I think the North Americans consider arse as fairly silly in their accent. Definitely less offensive.)
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:56 AM on May 12


I think I first saw "asshat" used on fark.com (just checked, it's still around) back in the very early 2000s.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:18 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I'd say arse might be akin to, but not exactly the same as, 'darn' vs 'damn'? But it's rarely used.
The different a-vowel, makes it sound a bit less...vulgar? Or even snobbish, if done right.

Perhaps to convey a nuance of status; the way some Americans pronounce a piece of cut glass with flowers in as 'vays', but a Ming Dynasty museum piece is a 'vozz'. Or your mothers' cooler sister is your 'Ant Liv'; but you get an inheritance from your 'Great-Ont Olivia'.

"Omigod, that girl is so full of herself that she's not even an ass, she's an arse."
If there are bees at the family picnic, you haw-haw at your brother-in-law getting bit in the ass and falling in the pond.
But you'd blush when reporting that Grandmother got stung in...um...in the...arse. Jumped ten feet straight up!
posted by bartleby at 4:44 AM on May 12


cf "turd burglar"

I have cf'd, one term is very homophobic and one isn't?
posted by biffa at 4:46 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


To my American, but daily exposed to British media, ears “arse” does sound sort of cute and childish in an adult voice, like when a long-time friend newly with children viciously stubs their toe and says, in genuine pain and anger, “Dang it! Crap, that hurts!” This is despite knowing it occupies a ruder niche in Britain. “Bloody” is similar.

This is changing as British media is increasingly aware of its American audience. For instance, most British podcasts I listen to have moved to bleeping “cunt”, which is not only a swear in America but also a sexist slur. On another podcast, the British host fell all over themselves apologizing to the shocked American guest after saying “Imagine going out for a fag after that…” meaning a cigarette. Later in the episode, the American learned that calling someone a “bummer” of a person was equally offensive from the other side of the pond.

Mostly though, both sides are more aware of each other’s usage. A shame in some ways.
posted by thoroughburro at 5:47 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


This is my favorite rumination on the word.
posted by thoroughburro at 5:48 AM on May 12


Arse...More offensive? Less so?

Quaint, which could come off as either whimsical or more intentionally profane ('can't be arsed') depending on the context, but probably either way less offensive. 'Move your arse' is My Fair Lady, 'move your ass' is a football coach.

"Bloody" or "bleeding" definitely doesn't have the same punch in American English, so "bloody arse" or "bleedin' arse" don't come across the same way.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:59 AM on May 12


So yeah, asshat was just so people could say asshole without being punished for saying asshole.

Yeah, I'm surprised to see this much discussion, including a discussion of the origins of the term in early 90's Usenet, without any mention of the content filter issue. In fact, I'm pretty sure that on alt.religion.kibology at the time the term appeared as assh@ (with the "@" perhaps nominally looking like the orifice in question?) I always assumed we got "asshat" as a sort of back-fill from that.
posted by The Bellman at 7:37 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I find "arse" cruder than "ass" but that might be partly because I learned most of my English by reading certain kinds of British children's books where "don't be an ass" meant "don't be a donkey".

Also possibly because over here, having just any kind of British accent or vocabulary is less likely to be seen as classy than it might be in the USA. Cut glass, sure, but "arse" by itself not so much.
posted by Zumbador at 7:46 AM on May 12


In Australia they're just two spellings for the same thing: arse:ass::colour:color.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 AM on May 12


"Bloody" or "bleeding" definitely doesn't have the same punch in American English

This one's actually baffling to me. In an accident, or when acquiring a small injury, or even during that time of the month, how does one discuss the effects politely in the UK, without using these words?
posted by Rash at 8:56 AM on May 12


Ass == Donkey

Donkey w/ a hat == Hee Haw
posted by mikelieman at 9:26 AM on May 12


Ass == Donkey
This is where the giggling in bible study comes in: "And Jesus passed through the gates of Jerusalem, riding atop an ass". heehee
posted by bartleby at 9:58 AM on May 12


Ass == Donkey

I always interpreted asshead as someone with the head of an ass i.e. that of a fourlegged mammal of the genus Equus.

The ass in asshat, on the other hand, always was an arse. The fact that arsehead exists, seems to point to me being quite wrong in my etymological asshattery.

Unrelatedly, I always favoured the asshat in Kingdom of Loathing:

Asshat. This is a hat made from two cheeks. Once you get used to the smell, it's pretty stylish.

Type: hat
Power: 30
+1 Sleaze Damage

posted by fregoli at 10:09 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


This quote just in from a correspondent, regarding the relative profanity of 'arse':
"I used to work in broadcasting studios, in the Bible Belt of the US. There were some real zealots about 'Community Standards' in charge of the bleep button.
They would have bleeped the 'hell' in bloody hell, and the 'hole' in arse hole."

P.S. "to be safe, say bloody/bleedin' Nora. To American audiences, that might as well be Crikey or Oo 'eck. A quaint regional interjection."

But then again, we've been listening to Kill James Bond! for months and are still unclear on the precise meaning of 'nonce', so.
posted by bartleby at 10:15 AM on May 12


A nonce is a child molester. Maybe specifically a male pederast, I'm not sure.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:35 AM on May 12


It can be any sex offender but is used most commonly for paedophiles.
posted by biffa at 11:59 AM on May 12


Merriam-Webster has a charming podcast called Word Matters. Episode 62 and covers the term asshat (as well as snake-oil).
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:05 PM on May 12


I’ve always interpreted asshole to be something that has a full range of emotions behind it - one can be a total asshole (very bad) or a lovable asshole (any pet cat).

But asshat has no such positive connotation.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 12:48 PM on May 12


Am I mistaken or is there not a sign as yet here of any portmanteau in a storm? How oddly inappropriate.
posted by y2karl at 12:49 PM on May 12


This one's actually baffling to me. In an accident, or when acquiring a small injury, or even during that time of the month, how does one discuss the effects politely in the UK, without using these words?

It's all about the intonation and where the stress falls in the sentence.

(and as I try to sound out and describe specifically what those intonations are, I'm failing miserably and falling back to 'You'll know the difference when you hear it')
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:30 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


An asshole is a dirty anatomical hole

Note, I used this as a tagline on my onlyfans and it did not generate the traffic I was hoping for. I was told for some it meant five figures a week, alas. Another opportunity flushed down the drain...
posted by maxwelton at 2:06 PM on May 12


"That's what I'm trying to explain, Miss.
My bleedin' leg's bloody 'cause my bloody leg's bleeding."
posted by bartleby at 2:16 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I downloaded that Toucan extension and here's what I saw and I nearly died laughing.

who are hatbreed?
maybe it's part of that ass sombrero crew selena hangs out with
posted by kathrynm at 5:35 PM on May 12


one term is very homophobic and one isn't

Seconding biffa. That expression (mentioned earlier, not the subject of the thread) is extremely homophobic. Do not use it unless you want to appear extremely bigoted
posted by scruss at 5:42 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Surprisingly absent from Roger's Profanisaurus
posted by Dub at 6:00 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I like asshat (or better, ass-hat) because I’m told I have the slang of a 90 year old man, and it feels vintage with the right intonation. Also “arse” has an important edge in that you can say “can’t be arsed” to mean I won’t bother, but “can’t be assed” doesn’t work.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:14 PM on May 12




I’ve always interpreted asshole to be something that has a full range of emotions behind it - one can be a total asshole (very bad) or a lovable asshole (any pet cat).

David Byrne agrees with you.

Sometimes dear
You tell me I'm an asshole
Sometimes you're an asshole too
Even though we're filled with imperfections
I don't think any less of you

posted by Zumbador at 10:55 AM on May 13


This is my favorite rumination on the word

I thought for sure that would be a link to Ismo
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 11:08 AM on May 13


In New Zealand the title Associate Professor is often abbreviated as Ass Pro (for example, Ass Pro Smith).

To an immigrant like me, the jokes practically write themselves--particularly regarding academics who (also like me) are, as it were, fundamentally sound.

But I quickly discovered that New Zealand academics Do Not See The Joke.
posted by tumbling at 11:34 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Now that I spend eight seconds looking, I find that someone did fuckwit a few years ago. Congrats, Australians: it's your word!
posted by bryon at 10:13 PM on May 16


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