I used to think that the word "ass" was simply slang for "buttocks" - rather crude but not particularly dirty unless used in a directly pornographic sense, much less so than the F word. However, in a conservative environment such as in India, the word is often bleeped out in TV programs. And someone in a forum hosted by a tech magazine criticised the magazine's usage of the expression "kick-ass" to describe the performance of some particularly good computer hardware.

I always thought "kick-ass" here simply means that the product is so superior that, figuratively speaking, it can place a foot in the competition's posterior and kick it with impunity. I also thought a reference to kissing someone's ass also belonged to the "crude but not really vulgar" category. Am I wrong ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?
(Email Removed) had it:
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply slang for "buttocks" - rather crude but not particularly dirty ... the "crude but not really vulgar" category. Am I wrong ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

Vulgarity is in the eye of the beholder, but I've never considered "***" (the UK form of "ass") to be related to sex.

When Harry Chapin sang "I've got a tyre around my gut, from sitting on my butt", the recording used a drum beat in place of the word "butt" - presumably it was considered too racy for the audience in the 70s.

David
==
replace usenet with the
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply ... ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

Vulgarity is in the eye of the beholder, but I've never considered "***" (the UK form of "ass") to be ... - presumably it was considered too racy for the audience in the 70s. David == replace usenet with the

Ass as in a "piece of ass" does mean sex. Degree of vulgarity is not only in the eye of the beholder, it also depends on context. Ass can mean anything from a donkey, to buttocks, to sex. "Kick-ass" would not be used in a formal setting.
Ivan
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply slang for "buttocks" - rather crude but not particularly dirty ... the "crude but not really vulgar" category. Am I wrong ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

It depends. I might compliment a business associate on his kick-ass presentation, but I wouldn't tell a priest that his sermon was kick-ass.

Tony Cooper
Orlando, FL
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply slang for "buttocks" - rather crude but not particularly dirty ... the "crude but not really vulgar" category. Am I wrong ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

You have the "kick-ass" definition down pat.
I don't think that either "kiss-ass" or "kick-ass" refers to sex. Both do refer to the buttocks, of course, though the one implies the most humiliating kind of servile abasement, while the other refers to the complete defeat of a competitor, describing the final view and scornful action against the fleeing defeated one.
From those basic images, one can derive quite a few extended images. Use of the expressions would be considered out of place in a formal business environment, although the dynamic energy involved in the ass-kicking expression would allow it to be used in some motivational and reward speeches. The ass-kissing remark, being a description of another as a toady, would be in the gossip and character-destruction range of insults, and expresses much hurt and resentment on the part of the speaker. Both are crude, but I don't think they are vulgar.

Michael Brown, the erstwhile director of the FEMA agency, used another expression, while giving testimony to several of the Congressional committee panels investigating the Katrina hurricane affairs. It may refer to a sexual body part, but he was not reprimanded. The feeling of being "backed into a corner", or "up against it" or the "cornered rat" is the image that comes to my mind first, of course, but the other feeling of being in a "desperate decision" time, or last best opportunity to accomplish a deed are also involved. I don't think I ever heard the expression before, but the image evoked is very evocative:
"balls to the wall".
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply ... ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

You have the "kick-ass" definition down pat. I don't think that either "kiss-ass" or "kick-ass" refers to sex. Both do ... I don't think I ever heard the expression before, but the image evoked is very evocative: "balls to the wall".

I've not heard the expression before. The image evoked for you does not seem be what was intended.
http://www.slate.com/id/2136001 /
Where does the expression "balls to the wall" come from? By Jesse Sheidlower
Posted Friday, Feb. 10, 2006, at 6:12 PM ET
In testimony before a Senate oversight committee today, former FEMA headman Michael Brown blamed the Department of Homeland Security for the government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. "I told the staff … that I expected them to cut every piece of red tape, do everything they could, that it was balls to the wall," Brown testified. A skeptical Sen. Norm Coleman responded: "Can you show me ... your very clear directives to go, quote, 'balls to the walls,' to clear up this situation, to fix it?" Where does the expression "balls to the wall" come from?

Somewhat disappointingly, it has nothing to do with hammers, nails, and a particularly gruesome way of treating an enemy. The expression comes from the world of military aviation. In many planes, control sticks are topped with a ball-shaped grip. One such control is the throttle—to get maximum power you push it all the way forward, to the front of the cockpit, or firewall (so-called because it prevents an engine fire from reaching the rest of the plane). Another control is the joystick—pushing it forward sends a plane into a dive. So, literally pushing the balls to the (fire)wall would put a plane into a maximum-speed dive, and figuratively going balls to the wall is doing something all-out, with maximum effort. The phrase is essentially the aeronautical equivalent of the automotive "pedal to the metal."

The expression is first found in military-aviation sources that date from the Vietnam War, and it was recorded in the slang of U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in 1969. Although no evidence from the period has come to light, Korean War veterans have also reliably claimed to have used the expression in the 1950s. An earlier parallel is balls-out, in the same sense, which is found in military-aviation sources that date from World War II. (The phrase was also painted on the nose of at least one fighter plane.) In both cases it's likely that the possibility of an anatomical interpretation has helped the expressions gain wider use.
Peter Duncanson
UK (posting from a.e.u)
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
The feeling of being "backed into a corner", or "up ... the image evoked is very evocative: "balls to the wall".

Oops! a bit of redundancy here. Sorry 'bout that.
I've not heard the expression before. The image evoked for you does not seem be what was intended.

" but the other
feeling of being in a "desperate decision" time, or last best opportunity to accomplish a deed are also involved. "

That meaning was in my expression. It may not be identical to the Air Force description, but the desperate nature of the act and feeling are in my definition.
So the Air Force doesn't intend the anatomical reference. OK. But I think the expression wouldn't stick if the picture didn't come up (as the last line of your excerpt mentions.)
http://www.slate.com/id/2136001 / Where does the expression "balls to the wall" come from? By Jesse Sheidlower Posted Friday, Feb. 10, 2006, at ... plane.) In both cases it's likely that the possibility of an anatomical interpretation has helped the expressions gain wider use.

Thanks for the education. Low-balling and high-balling also have mechanical origins. They don't refer specifically to the anatomy, nor even to baseball, but they have travelled into other fields of endeavor, and it is possible that anatomical reference has helped them stay in circulation.
Between saving the world and having a spot of tea Ivan said
Ass as in a "piece of ass" does mean sex. Degree of vulgarity is not only in the eye of ... Ass can mean anything from a donkey, to buttocks, to sex. "Kick-ass" would not be used in a formal setting.

Having done a lot of tuning email (word and phrase) filters, it's worth pointing out that 'formal' in the sense you're using it is very restricted, or localised.

rob singers
pull finger to reply
Foemina Erit Ruina Tua
I used to think that the word "ass" was simply slang for "buttocks" - rather crude but not particularly dirty ... the "crude but not really vulgar" category. Am I wrong ? Are these expressions more directly associated with sex ?

The liberalization of the media continues to introduce words that were once considered uncooth or vulgar. What was once localized slang becomes universal when accepted as common in the media. When this occurs, the older members of the society will know it to be vulgar; whereas, those who grew up with the word in their everyday speech will not consider it vulgar at all. Many feel the word remains vulgar but is now socially acceptable because the population has become more vulgar. The word is what it is.
These older people will die, the opposition to the word will pass away with them, and another new superlative will enter the language. But this is not to be thought of as a cycle because the trend is not likely to reverse from the vulgar to the genteel. I can generally find other expressions to describe the circumstances. Hopefully, they will be acceptable in a broader Context.
Ken
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies