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Assified?


Telling It Like It Is, Victorian Style

Mark Twain was awesome. I've recently rediscovered him and am having fun reading his short stories and other miscellaneous rantings. I absolutely adore his use of the word "assified."

What a great word. I encourage all students--and especially my grandchildren--to use it freely.

The question is: How in the world did that word pass the scrutiny of the uptight Victorian editors of Twain's day?

Well, for the same reason the editors of the King James Bible saw fit to have Saint Peter talk about dumbasses. Or one dumbass, anyway:

    [T]he dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. - 2 Peter 2:16

You see, the term ass was never really a nice term when applied to people, but it didn't always mean someone's backside, just as dumb didn't always mean "stupid" (and neither did stupid). In days gone by, a dumbass was simply someone as stupid as a donkey, and something assified was similarly stupid (as a donkey).

In every other language we have a different word for donkey and buttocks. For example, in German they're Esel (donkey) and Arsch (butt). In the Queen's English, they're ass and arse. But we speak American English, where ass has come to mean both a donkey and the glutes.

Not a problem, except that this assified merger robbed us of two perfectly good terms--dumbass and assified--which Victorian prudes were allowed to use in polite society, but we enlightened modern folk aren't. Thanks a lot, whatever assified dumbasses decided that.

I say we take back those words with their Victorian meanings and enrichenate our impoverished vocabularies. So your assignment this semester is to work the word assified into at least one conversation a week.

Do it for Mark Twain. Do it for America.