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  1. Mel wrote on

    Oh Glenn this is so timely – I struggled with this for ages! I tried it both ways (no pun intended) but also settled on ass purely because it didn’t conjure up the mental images that arse did…

    1. Mel wrote on


  2. Rhonda wrote on

    What a great start for a Wednesday… I woke up all passive agressive today, not in a good mood. But you’ve made me laugh and boosted my spirit. Great post.

    With my Nan I say “derrière” because she’s posh like that. :-p

    And you’re right, I tend to use the two words in the same way as you mentioned – not in clients’ copy yet.

    But… as an immigrant with a strong accent, I find it hard to say “arse”, so even when I say “arse” it could sound like “ass” as my ‘native’ language have mostly short vowels/sounds. :-(

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Yes, I feel honoured to have been given the chance to swear in client copy. It happens all too rarely. You should see some of the rest of it! I quoted on the meek bits!!!

      1. Mel wrote on


  3. Mel wrote on

    Or should that be Tooshie?

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      I don’t actually know! Definitely have to look that one up. ;-)

  4. Ian wrote on

    I disagree.

    Using ‘arse’ over ‘ass’ gives you a bit more flexibility. It allows the writer not to have to explain when you use ‘ass’ to means donkey. This is usually used as an insult (as in not a thoroughbred horse, clumsy and stupid) rather than to identify the animal though this mostly happens when quoting Mr. Bingley and doesn’t realy add anything to an arguement on contemporary use.

    I agree that kick-ass, wise-ass and badass sound better than their -arse equivalents though they only do so as American phrases.

    But what about smart-arse? I’ve been called a smart-arse too many times for smart-ass not to sound flat, atonal and just a bit off. Clang, clang, clang. Being Irishman; it works with our piratey Rs, and an Aussie citizen; it’s quite satisfying to hear it in the non-rhotic style. Smahd-ahs.

    Also don’t, please, forget ‘arsey’ as in to be put out, upset or in a mood as reaction to something. It’s a great word.

    In all seriousness though, as writer you must consider your audience, of course. When I read a piece and note English (British) spelling with Americanisms dotted through the text, without context, I have to admit that I find it undermines the credibility of the writer. Are their opinions based on 80s action films and reading The Huffington Post? The clang, clang rips my attention away from the piece, almost always.

    This is not to say that I can’t read something by an American writer using idioms and spelling familiar to their part of the world. I love the variety and can just as easily understand someone speaking in a second language of English and jumbling the odd bit of grammar as I can some writing using a different standard of English. The problems arise with inconsistency or worse with the lowest common denominator of language. If only it was just the spelling used by the ALP undermining the credibility of the party.

    I’ll read with ease the an American piece that omits the ‘u’ in ‘colour’ but when I read something by an Australian, Irish or British writer I want to see some arse.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      I see your point. But you’re still wrong. ;-)

      Seriously, I agree it’s all about the audience, and if I felt mine needed an arse, I’d give it to them.

      I think it’s also worth noting that, as writers, I think it’s easy for us to overestimate the importance civilians place on these things. You and I might be put off by an Australian writer’s Americanisms, but my wife wouldn’t even notice.

  5. Ian wrote on

    Any chance you could add a preview button, that was way too long.


  6. Justine Larbalestier wrote on

    I can see why you made the decision you did in that context and when you’re talking about written language.

    However, for me it’s definitely “arse.” I say that as an Australian American who’s lived in the US on and off since 1999.

    For me it’s accent. I have an Aussie accent not a Yankee one. I can’t say “ass” without collapsing into giggles unless I’m referring to a donkey. And even then I’ll say donkey. It just sounds wrong out of our mouths. Like we’re trying to sound as if we’re from the US of A. We’re not.

    Smartarse sounds right to me. Smartass? No. Sounds silly unless said by an actual Yankee.

    I mean, seriously, are we going to start saying “assy” instead of “arsey”? It all went “ass up” instead of “arse up”? I really hope not. Sounds ridiculous.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Yeah, I definitely agree when it’s spoken. But I don’t write it with an American accent, I just use the American spelling. And I’d be very surprised if any/many of my readers read it with an American accent.

  7. James wrote on

    Glad I could inspire the article for you Glenn :-)

    I almost always use arse, as I think back to the looney tunes cartoons where a donkey would appear when someone says ass.

    Don’t really use bad-arse / bad-ass, usually stick with more Aussie/brit used terms.

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