[Ads-l] "kick ass" 1862?

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Oct 10 16:59:35 UTC 2017

I do not claim to understand the collocation in the 1862 Civil War letter,

but maybe speculation besides accepting the sense known *over* a century later

(with no intervening words between kick and ass) may be appropriate.

I lost some email so here's the archive with links (also see Ben at Slate)


Ben asked, more or less, whether the letter writer meant either to kick ass generally (gung-ho versus enemies)

or to kick Old Captian Gilbert's ass. Of the two, in context, the latter seems to me

relatively more likely.

This soldier evidently does not want to enlist longer, at least not now.

He may wish to resist the pressure to do so.

By the way, there is ambiguity about what he wrote by his hand and what was dictated (if, in fact, both).

Which was the interlinear?

(And the first k is messy, but what else could fit?)

"Ass" in some of these letters meant "as"--not that that instantly helps.

Might--wild guess--this be an abbreviated "kick like an ass,"

in resistance?

Though it's not a really parallel case, another letter (by another author, Everett4 soldier from GA) includes:

"iwant to See Some
of the gals down thea in Hayneville you
must tell them all howdy for me if
you Can tell them that i love them
as hard af [sic, as?] mule Can kick down hill
i cant see any Gals up her at all"

To "kick like a mule" (more or less, to really insist?) may have been common then.




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

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