[Ads-l] ""half-arsed" antedated by more than 40 years

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon May 1 16:36:59 EDT 2017

>From an article in the Northern Whig (Hudson, New York), April 5, 1811,
deploring a political demonstration.
We have not been able to collect but one speech of this distinguished
citizen on the above occasion; which, on account of its originality, we
trust our readers will excuse us for publishing, even though it should
offend the ear of delicacy.  Having arrived with his Phalanx opposite the
house of a certain gentleman, he ordered them to halt, and then addressed
them -- "Republicans!  I have got so hoarse I cannot halloo -- you must cry
out -- "C********** H****!  *the half-arsed tory! -- Huzza!*" -- which was
three times repeated by his "*republican*" companions, to the great mirth
and amusement of a crowd of negro wenches, which by this time had joined
their standard.

The OED hasn't paid attention to this term lately.  It has
half-arsed  adj.
1961    A. West *Trend is Up* ix. 386   You don't know what it is to worry
about what half-arsed thing your own son is going to pull on you next.
1972    *Observer* 24 Sept. 35/2   The sort of half-arsed dottiness they
dish out in West End comedies.

half-assed adj. *slang* (orig. *U.S.*) ineffectual, inadequate, mediocre;
stupid, inexperienced.
1932    *Amer. Speech* *7* 333   *Half-assed*, mediocre; insignificant.
1955    W. Gaddis *Recognitions*  i. v. 183   A half-assed critic..thinks
he has to make you unhappy before you'll take him seriously.

HDAS has the term from
​1863, and Green's Dictionary follows HDAS.​

This is the sort of thing I take quiet pride in offering this group.  All
right, loud pride.

​A download of the full article available upon request.​


George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

But when aroused at the Trump of Doom / Ye shall start, bold kings, from
your lowly tomb. . .
L. H. Sigourney, "Burial of Mazeen", Poems.  Boston, 1827, p. 112

The Trump of Doom -- affectionately (of course) also known as The Dunghill
Toadstool.  (Here's a picture of one.)

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

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