Ignoble-ass citation practices

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"The intensifier 'ass', in snippets", Improbable Research 11/3/2014:

snippets journal publishes notes that contribute to the study of syntax and semantics in generative grammar. The notes are brief, self-contained and explicit. For an example of the content, can we recommend a 2011 paper by Professor Daniel Siddiqi (Carlton University, US) who examines the ‘ass’ intensifier. […]

See: 'The English intensifier ass' in: snippets, issue 23, May 2011.

But Daniel Siddiqi failed to cite a number of earlier (and more complete) publications, and Improbable Research misses a bunch more.

In chronological order, prior to Siddiqi's paper:

Arthur Spears, "African-American language use: Ideology and so-called obscenity", in Mufwene, Rickford, Bailey, and Baugh (Eds.) African-American English, 1998.
Diana Elgersma, ""Serious-ass morphology: The anal emphatic in English", MILC 2 1998.
Mary Bucholtz, "You da man: Narrating the racial other in the production of white masculinity", Journal of Sociolinguistics 1999.
Mark Liberman, "New intensifiers", LLOG 8/16/2004.
Mark Liberman, "The intensified crack of dawn?", LLOG 6/7/2005.
Randall Munroe, "Hyphen", 1/1/2006.

After Siddiqi, but before Improbable Research:

Geoffrey Pullum, "Root haughtiness", LLOG 8/20/2011.
Mark Liberman, "Is it a prosodic-ass constraint?", LLOG 8/25/2011.
Neal Whitman, "Ass/Fucking Intensification", Literal-Minded 1/19/2012.
John Rickford, "Rachel Jenteal's language in the Zimmerman trial", LLOG 7/10/2013.
Ben Zimmer, "Can '[adjective]-ass' occur predicatively?", LLOG 11/18/2013.

My point? This is serious-ass scholarship, and there's no excuse for a sloppy-ass literature review.


  1. Keith said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 5:54 am

    As usual, there is an XKCD about this.


    [(myl) Please note that this is one of the bibliographic citations given above:

    Randall Munroe, "Hyphen", 1/1/2006.


  2. Jesse Sheidlower said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 7:46 am

    Also, in 1994 the Historical Dictionary of American Slang published an extensive entry on this, with a large number of examples going back to the 1920s, divided into several categories by parts of speech of the resulting forms.

    [(myl) Thanks! I'll take a look at (and try to summarize) the entry in our library's copy.]

  3. Bob Davis said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

    From Daily Kos:11/12/2014
    Yesterday was the United States Marine Corps' 239th birthday. Jarheads and leathernecks celebrated as they long have—with big-ass cakes like the one above, [click the link] which commemorated the Corps' 233rd birthday in 2008.

  4. Y said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

    Is the ass intensifier related (synchronically) to the ass pronoun? That is, as in "I'm going to sue his ass", "you better know how to behave your ass", etc., see Beavers and Koontz-Garboden, "A Universal Pronoun in English?", Linguistic Inquiry 37(3):503-513 (2006).

  5. He said, she said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

    It is fair to hold Professor Siddiqi to the standard of "serious-ass scholarship," but that is not a valid standard by which to judge Improbable.com or the Annals of Improbable Research. The last sentence of MYL's post — specifically the ambiguous antecedent of the word "this" — makes it unclear whether Mark intends to scold Professor Siddiqi alone, or to include the good people behind the Ig Nobel Prizes.

  6. Chas Belov said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 3:11 am

    What bothered me about the snippet was the idea that freakin' needed to be an infix. That is, freakin' can be a part of expletive insertion, but does not have to be. What about:

    3h. The night is freakin' cold.
    3i. I am freakin' happy.
    3j. I am freakin' hot in leather.
    3k. I am freakin' fast.

  7. Chas Belov said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 3:14 am

    Hmm, I may not have stated that well. The piece doesn't explicitly say that freakin' must be an infix. However, the author has chosen to use freakin' the infix for comparison rather than freakin' the prefix (not sure if that's the right work here).

  8. Chas Belov said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 3:36 am

    Also, if I Google about, I do find some ass-final predicates, though much rarer than ass-non-final:

    "I couldn't stand XBMC PVR when I used MythTV, so broke ass."
    "Hahahahahaa, you guys are so broke ass."
    "Bad meant just that, such as "he's a bad mofo" and ass used as a qualifier such as " Man, I am so broke-ass"."
    "I think you so scared ass." (song lyric)
    "U ar so angry ass!"
    "why are you so angry A.S.S?"
    "How so sorry-ass?"

  9. maidhc said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 4:34 am

    There's a discussion of this very point in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow:

    A reading

  10. BobW said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

    When I worked at an electronic manufacturer, we used one ohm resistors for equipment calibration. They were kept in a drawer marked "BAR" for big-assed resistors. An example:


  11. Ray Dillinger said,

    November 13, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

    I don't know how widely it's used, but in my particular circle (west coast USA) it's been normal for some time to use "nose" as a universal, as in, "Oh, I've seen his nose around here before", or "I think she might be looking for a nose to sue about that issue, so look out…." or "They wouldn't know, their noses haven't been there yet."

    I think it's influenced by "keep your nose clean," "keep your nose out of my business," etc.

    OTOH yes, I have definitely heard others using "ass" in precisely the same way.

  12. Jim Breen said,

    November 14, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

    And then for us BrE-speakers there's the classic Limerick:

    There was a young lass from Madras
    Who had a remarkable ass
    It wasn't rounded and pink
    As you probably think
    It was grey with long ear and ate grass.

  13. Christopher said,

    November 14, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

    Also, as a minor quibble, it's Carleton University, Canada.

  14. Bessel Dekker said,

    November 15, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

    Examples where “ass” precedes the adjective, and (in one case) with no noun head:

    “OK, so maybe I always knowed Emily was kind of strange. She only showed up naked and at night, but she sure took a shine to me! She was kind of pale and purty, but trouble was, she was so cold! Her hands was cold like ice, and so was her ass. They was Ass-Cold!”


    “Stick those ass-cold hands into my heart”.

    (http://www.broadjam.com/artists/songs.php?artistID=86288&mediaID=558727) Admittedly, the cotext has nudity, so this might be a different sort of ass on the face of it. At the same time, there seems to be ambiguity with the intensifier.

  15. MrFnortner said,

    November 16, 2014 @ 9:18 pm

    And then there's this: http://imgur.com/gallery/vNHwILq

  16. ajay said,

    November 17, 2014 @ 6:31 am

    Extensively discussed, of course, by Fry and Laurie.

    – Do you recall what it was I said to you the last time you were in here?

    – Well sir. You told me to move my ass, and haul my ass, and not to sit on my ass, because if I did, you would personally rearrange my ass.

    – Uh uh. Wrong, Mr Jacobson. I was not going to rearrange your ass – I was going to boil your ass in a bag, and have your ass for breakfast.

    – That's it, sir. Have my ass for breakfast.

    – Read that sign, Jacobson.

    – "The buck stops at my ass."

    "…an entire chapter I devoted to the phrase "my ass is on the line". In this case "the line" being the vestigal notion of the frontier in American folklore. To put his bottom on the frontier is still the goal of the modern American."

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