[Ads-l] _-ass_

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 10 03:06:18 UTC 2016

On Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 10:18 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> I was recently surprised to see "silly-ass" in a Jerome Kern song lyric
> published in 1908, in the song, "Meet Her With a Taximeter" from the
> Charles Frohmann musical revue, Fluffy Ruffles.
> "Take her in a Taxy that's the thing to do . . . . Till the chauffeur chap
> has some silly-ass mishap and a crowd gathers round!"
> Sheet music published by T. B. Harms, 1908, viewable at:
> http://digital.library.ucla.edu/apam/librarian?ITEMID=SY105865
> Here's my blog post that mentions it:
> http://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/05/taximeter-taximeter-uber-alles-history.html

That would be an attributive use of "silly ass" ('foolish person'), which
OED takes back to 1905:

1905   Punch 22 Mar. 214/2   He inquired if Phyllis ‘had done the Academy
yet’? Which, as it didn't open for some days, was a silly-ass thing to say.

Also this from Orwell:

1945   ‘G. Orwell’ in Windmill No. 2. 18   The silly-ass Englishman with
his spats and his monocle.

I'd say "silly-ass" is independent of (though perhaps an influence on) the
later extension of "ADJ-ass(ed)" as a general intensifier, which the slang
dictionaries date to the '50s.


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

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