Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 09:45:38 -0500 From: Gregory {Greg} Downing Subject: Re: Rat's -ss On Mon, 27 Oct 1997, Jody (Joseph Streible, Jr.) (jcstre01[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] wrote: >> 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? >> I don't see it in the dictionaries (including a number of relatively recent slang dictionaries) that I have lying around right here -- but I *have* heard it, from people I know, and in fact have heard it on the radio on bantering vernacular talk-shows where there is a premium on saying things that sound somewhat shocking when said in the public forum of a radio progam, but are not FCC-proscribed (i.e., you can say "ass" on the radio, and you can certainly say "rat's"). It's not something I've heard gentler or older people use -- it seems to be a "tough" expression where the user is trying to sound cynical. I first heard it in the mid-1980's. There is an older expression "in a pig's ass/arse" (sometimes euphemized as "in a pig's eye") that goes back to the first half of the 20th century, and is used as a dismissive response to a suggestion or idea. This phrase reportedly came originally from a line, which later became a catch-phrase, in an old bawdy song whose narrative line we the uninformed can only wonder at. Maybe (???) "I don't give a rat's ass" is simply a variant or intensification (?) of the harsh dismissiveness of the older animal's-ass phrase??? (If so, research needed, unless someone turns up a written treatment.) Maybe there's a military tie-in, as was suggested on the list last night -- dictionaries of slang and the like list a lot of miltary expressions that contain "rat." Maybe unrelated (???) is the British expression "rat-arsed," meaning really drunk, which goes back to around 1980 or so. Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]