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Naming of animals
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2013/02/17
6:30pm
Wandrin
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When roaming the back roads of Wisconsin, I found a road sign “ASSMAN”. Further searches found it was a surname for residents of the area. No doubt the origin in another language, the surname may have meant something else. Or did his ancestors chose the surname since they raised donkeys.

Questions: How come ass refers to the buttocks. When did that happen. How come ass became synonymous with donkey.

2013/02/20
8:21am
asusena Armenia
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Webster’s online dictionary lists at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ass:

1ass

1
:  any of several hardy gregarious African or Asian perissodactyl mammals (genus  Equus) smaller than the horse and having long ears;  especially  :  an African mammal (E. asinus) that is the ancestor of the donkey
2
sometimes vulgar  :  a stupid, obstinate, or perverse person<made an  ass  of himself>  —often compounded with a preceding adjective  <don’t be a smart-ass>
 

Origin of  ASS

Middle English, from Old English  assa,  probably from Old Irishasan,  from Latin  asinus
First Known Use: before 12th century
 
2ass
a  often vulgar  :  buttocks  —often used in emphatic reference to a specific person  <get your  ass  over here>  <saved myass>
 

b  often vulgar  :  anus

2
usually vulgar  :  sexual intercourse
 
 

Origin of  ASS

Middle English  ars, ers,  from Old English  Ã¦rs, ears;  akin to Old High German & Old Norse  ars  buttocks, Greek  orrhosbuttocks,  oura  tail
First Known Use: before 12th century
 
 
Online Etymology Dictionary provides us with the following information:
 
ass (n.1)    beast of burden, Old English  assa  (Old Northumbrian  assal,  assald) “he-ass,” probably from Old Celtic  *as(s)in  “donkey,” which (with German  esel, Gothic  asilus, Lithuanian  asilas, Old Church Slavonic  osl) ultimately is from Latin  asinus, which is probably of Middle Eastern origin (cf. Sumerian  ansu).

For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, “Confessio Amantis,” 1393]

Since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence  asshead, late 15c., etc.). To  make an ass of oneself  is from 1580s.  Asses’ Bridge  (c.1780), from Latin  Pons Asinorum, is fifth proposition of first book of Euclid’s “Elements.” In Middle English, someone uncomprehending or unappreciative would be  lik an asse that listeth on a harpe. In 15c., an  ass man  was a donkey driver.

ass (n.2)  slang for “backside,” first attested 1860 in nautical slang, in popular use from 1930; chiefly U.S.; from dialectal variant pronunciation of  arse  (q.v.). The loss of  -r-  before  -s-attested in several other words (e.g.  burst/bust,  curse/cuss,  horse/hoss,  barse/bass). Indirect evidence of the change from  arse  to  ass  can be traced to 1785 (in euphemistic avoidance of  ass  “donkey” by polite speakers) and perhaps to Shakespeare, if Nick  Bottom  transformed into a donkey in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1594) is the word-play some think it is. Meaning “woman regarded as a sexual object” is from 1942. Colloquial  (one’s) ass  “one’s self, one’s person” attested by 1958.
 
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