Pronoun [was Finally!]

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Sep 27 13:01:32 UTC 2007

On 9/26/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 6:04 PM -0700 9/26/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >Am disappointed to see that the authors of that article did not find
> >the historical perspective in HDAS of any use or interest.
> ...and a very rich entry, or set of entries, it is.  I was just
> thinking of "Don't let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash",
> and that's in there with a couple of hits, under the 'ability and
> determination' entry.  Wilson's friend's greeting ("How's your ass?")
> makes an appearance too, from 1960 ("usu. considered vulgar"--like
> virtually every other entry for _ass_, curiously enough!).

HDAS also has excellent coverage of a related usage, "(one's) balls":

ball, n.
6. pl. [cf. identical use of ASS] one's body, person, or self --
sometimes functions as an intensifier of pronouns; one's life or
wel-being, "hide," "skin," "neck," -- usu. considred vulgar. [Used
only by men.]

In some parts of the country, at least, "How's your balls?" or "How's
your nuts?" would be the equivalent of the "How's your ass?" greeting
Wilson mentioned. But I gather that "X's balls/nuts" isn't nearly as
pronominally flexible as "X's ass".

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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