Spears: Slang and Euphemism

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Dec 20 13:19:06 UTC 2006

Kudos to Wilson for verifying "assmaster," which HDAS suppressed for insufficient evidence.

  Berry & Van den Bark's _American Thesaurus of Slang_ (Supp. ed) (1947) lists a virtually
  synonymous "shackmaster" as a WWII military term. This now looks like a euphemism.


Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Spears: Slang and Euphemism

My wife gave me a copy of this for Christmas, but I hadn't looked at
it till someone here referred to it.

It surprised me by having both "skank" and "skag," with their
definitions being roughly comparable to the primary meaning of my
youth: basically, physically unappealling and from a working-class
background. The terms were interchangeable. A friend of mine had the
nickname, "skagmaker," because of his penchant for datiing girls from
the projects.

But Spears doesn't quite get "skank" right. He gives the meaning as
"an ugly girl or woman." Quite so. But he attributes its origin to
"collegiate slang," by which I assume that he means "white," given
that, when he means "black," he says so.

Then I looked up "assmaster." When I was in the Army, I learned the
term when a white GI was given the nickname, "The Assmaster of
Heilbronn," by other white GI's. That is, this was a term clearly of
"collegiate" origin. Spears has the term, which puts him one-up on
Jon. But his definition is news to me: "an oaf, a disliked person." To
us GI's in 1961, it meant roughly what "player" can mean today: "a
Casanova, a playboy, a gigolo, one who is accustomed to having his way
with women."

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Sam'l Clemens

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