I don’t hold with how the Americans have devalued this swearword. From British lips and as a plural it is a word of great beauty with a range of subtle uses. The ruddy Americans made it a singular, shortened “arse” to “ass” and just use it to describe people who they don’t like. The type of people that, on our side of the Atlantic, we would have described as “arses”
But the word “Arseholes” is a wonderful word, equally at home in high poetry as it is in the taproom. Alfred Lord Tennyson uses it in his famous ballad “Barnacle Bill the Sailor, to suggest the fruitlessness of the tender longing of a spurned lover.
“Now Bill’s gone back to sea again
She sends him gifts and parcels
She thinks that he’ll come back to her
Will he ruddy arseholes!”
© Alfred Lord Tennyson 1891
I love how the word is used in that sentence, it just shows how versatile a cuss word it is. I remember my Raymond’s brother Bernard complaining that he couldn’t cut a slice off a loaf of bread properly because the knife was “as blunt as arseholes” and despite myself I was impressed with his ruddy metaphor! It said what he wanted to say, in a much more picturesque way than just saying that the knife needed sharpening, like anybody normal might have said.
Incidentally, my Raymond introduced me to his brother Bernard with the words “he may be covered in tattoos, but don’t worry about him, he’s as soft as arseholes.
Replacing the “S” with a “D” gives “arseholed, which is a lovely way of saying that someone is extremely drunk. “I am afraid that Professor Hawking won’t be able to deliver his keynote speech tonight as he has just polished off a bottle of Croft Original and is completely arseholed” the possibilities of this word are endless
I am two thirds of the way down a bottle of Croft Original of my own at the moment, and I must tell you about this story that old duffer who I saw on the television told a few years ago. He had gone to a public school back in the 1920s or some time like that, and after seeing what was on the menu for lunch on one particular day, he had bet a few of his chums a shilling each that he would use the word “arseholes” in conversation with the headmaster who would be sitting at their table. When the fish was served, the lad looked directly at the head and said: ” Ahhh… Soles!” The head looked at him darkly, but said nothing. Then, as they tucked in, the lad exclaimed “Soles are my favourite fish! Are soles your favourite, sir?” Again the head looked at him darkly, but remained silent and carried on eating.
Unfortunately, the lad mucked up the coup de grace by asking “they are arseholes, aren’t they sir?” He was taken away and caned severely, but he collected the cash off his classmates.
Some situations where the word “arsehole” might come in handy
(i) When carving the turkey: “Now, I know Mr MacKay likes a bit of thigh, and Mr Barrowclough enjoys breast, can I interest you in the arsehole Mr Baverstock?”
(ii) During a powercut: “Someone light a ruddy candle or something, it’s as dark as Dennis Healey’s arsehole in here!”
(iii) On a long bus journey on a hot day: for Christ’s sake open a ruddy window, there’s more fresh air up my arsehole than there is in here!”