Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 10:01:57 -0500 From: Jesse T Sheidlower 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