"rat's ass" (Was: shit!)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Sep 6 01:19:25 UTC 2010

At 10:18 PM +0100 9/5/10, Robin Hamilton wrote:
>From: "Jonathan Lighter" <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>>"Not give a rat's ass" is not uncommon in semi-autobiographical fiction
>>about World War II. One of the earliest novels to include it is Leon
>>_Battle Cry_ (1950-52, pub. 1953).
>Is "rat's ass" present apart from the collocation, "Not give a rat's ass"?
Funny you should ask.

More than any of us wanted to know on the topic is available at
Yes, that's the always reliable Uncyclopedia, as its name implies.

In connection with the actual question, my answer would be yes, at
least technically.  In the first place, "(not) to care a rat's ass"
is, predictably, invoked about as often as is not giving one.  Nor is
the rat's ass as a measure of value that rare, i.e. in "(not) be
worth a rat's ass". Lots of legitimate hits on both of these, in
various contexts.

At Rat's ass at Everything2.com (http://everything2.com/title/Rat%2527s+ass)
there is an enlightening comparison by srkorn of the relative value
(or lack thereof) of the two items in the subject line above and a
third minimizer discussed on the list in the distant past:
There is some debate as to whether a shit might be more worthless
than a rat's ass. However, it is generally contended that a flying
fuck is not real in even a metaphorical sense; my conclusion is that
by saying "I don't give a flying fuck", the implied meaning is "I
don't even care enough to make a coherent sentence regarding the
(Actually, the writer offers a pretty sound reconstruction of the
notion of minimizer, tacitly invoking scalar models and an implicit

Finally, literary types may be interested in the Rat's Ass Review,
alive and well at http://ratsassreview.com/.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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