Tuesday, 5 June 2012

What's the Difference between a Donkey and an Ass?

“One’s a trade union leader, the other’s a member of the cabinet”, according to the Two Ronnies’ Mastermind sketch where Charlie Smithers’ specialist subject is answering the question before last each time. A good answer, albeit one that would be lost on someone unfamiliar with British comedy of the seventies.

More accurate in the USA, of course, would be “one’s an animal, the other’s a part of the human anatomy”. And the fact that we say “arse” in the UK can give rise to many an amusing mental picture when hearing the transatlantic usage. Take the Nickelback song “Rockstar” and its lyric “I’m gonna dress my ass/In the latest fashion”. We could just imagine the drummer muttering “You spoil that donkey”. Or the comment of Capt Dan Hubbard of the Third Infantry Division just before the overthrow of Saddam: “We are going to exploit the situation, cross the river and barbecue his ass." Well, the troops probably would have been hungry by the time they reached the main square in Baghdad, but would they really have wanted a celebratory feast of spit roasted donkey?

Some more examples came to the fore in an excellent American legal thriller I have just finished. “His records have been carefully drafted to cover his own ass” – written on an equestrian blanket, perhaps? “X would get his ass chewed…probably worried that Y would kick his ass” – fear of animal cruelty, fortunately balanced with the kindness of “get your cute ass in there…more like I saved your ass.”

Which all goes to remind me of the passage in my follow up to Hatred Ridicule & Contempt, still a work in progress but hopefully to be published soon, when a central character reacts in succinct but derogatory fashion to what authorities often invoke to justify cover ups. Am I going to leave his exact comment as “Data protection my arse”? You bet your ass!

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