Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 10:01:57 -0500

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: Rat's -ss

Class discussion has lead to a question about a specific term used quite

often in the English language (at least, the English language to which I

am accustomed to listening).....the term "rat's ass" (i.e. I don't give a

rat's ass what he says!) What does it really mean? And where does it

originate? Also, are there any other terms that are similar in makeup

and usage?

We've collected a number of examples of _rat's ass_ meaning broadly

'a damn; (used broadly as a symbol of worthlessness)', usually in

negative phrases of the sort _don't give a rat's ass._ Our earliest

example is 1952, although we have a number of examples from the 1950s

in military use all referring to World War II; it's not unlikely that

when we get around to the R's we'll find something earlier.

We have consistent examples since the 1950s, but I've observed a

large increase in the currency of the phrase in the 1990s; I've

found examples even in mainstream sources such as the Washington

Post or the L.A. Times (here euphemized to "rat's _toches._"

Jesse Sheidlower

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang