Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks, Clerks II, Chasing Amy, and Mallrats, has written a book, which he's promoting on his blog. The title of the book is My Boring-Ass Life, which prompts my question: What's with all the ass-onance?
I mean, once you start looking around, you see ass-suffixes everywhere. (I'm sure there's a proper linguistic term for this type of word formation, but it's eluding me right now.) A very selective sampling from the world of the web (omitting all the obvious pr0n stuff):
- Cheapass Games
- Cheapass Gamer
- Cheapass Food
- The Great Cosmic Happy-Ass Card Company ("Creating Art for the Spiritually Challenged")
- Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii (which has its own legend and culture)
- Kickass Web Design, offering "template and website design solutions for small businesses and non-profit organizations." (You'd think a company with "kickass" in its name would come up with something less tepid than "solutions.")
- Pompous Ass Words ("dedicated to identifying words that shouldn't be used on the grounds that doing so makes you sound like a pompous ass")
- The Frozen Ass Fifty, an ultramarathon sponsored each February by Gord's of Calgary, Alberta. (A summer event, the Hot Ass Fifty, has been discontinued.)
The title of Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song ("The film that THE MAN doesn't want you to see!") was unprintably vulgar when the film was released in 1971; today it's quaint. And there are twelve live trademarks for "Badass" in the USPTO database.
Somewhere along the way, the "ass" suffix became an all-purpose intensifier that signifies (choose one) hipsterdom, slackerdom, street cred, or in-your-face-ness. It's an easy one-syllable verbal booster, like like, with the bonus feature of that satisfying sibilance at the finish. It hasn't quite been leached of all its shock value, but it's headed there, as the lexicon expands to include lazyass, stupidass, sorryass, and crazyass. (Ass-compounds aren't universally pejorative: see cuteass, cleverass, and coolass.)
The Official Ass Awards Dictionary--kind of a halfass site, in my opinion--cites wideass, poorass, dumbass, tightass, and grumpyass among its newest definitions. (I'd have guessed tightass to be a charter member.)
The Free Dictionary lists a number of ass idioms such as "kiss (someone's) ass," but none of the ass-fixes I'm addressing here. The Urban Dictionary is much more enterprising: see the ass emoticons, for example. (_$_) = "rich ass."
Urban Dictionary also provides an impressively long list of expressions (all reader-submitted, by the way) that incorporate a front-ended (so to speak) ass. I was pleased to discover that there's a name for something I've been noticing a lot lately: lettering across the backside of a garment that pronounces the wearer "juicy" or whatever. The name is ass billboard. Ass casserole--a synonym for "disorganized"--is evocative and euphonious.
And then there's ass anchovies, defined as "a term frequently used in Texas Hold 'Em, which describes a pocket pair of aces." Damn. That's poetic.
Anyone care to comment on new, unusual, or favorite ass words? Or explain the whole phenomenon to me? Much obliged.
Update: Dan the copy editor shares an accidental ass-ism.
(Hat tip to Kottke.org for the Kevin Smith item.)