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ass over teacup / ass over teakettle / . . .

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 2:53 am
by Archived Topic
Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "ass over teacup"? As in " She was walking to the alter when she suddenly fell, ass over teacup, into a tall candelabra.

Odd request, I know, but maybe not for this group.

Submitted by ( - )

ass over teacup / ass over teakettle

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 3:08 am
by Archived Reply
I don't have an answer, but a variant. I've only ever heard it "ass over teakettle."

Reply from ( - )

ass over teacup / ass over teakettle

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 3:22 am
by Archived Reply
a cruder version is "ass over tit"
Reply from ( - )

ass over teacup / ass over teakettle

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 3:37 am
by Archived Reply
From _Dictionary of American Slang, 3rd ed._ (1995) by Robert L. Chapman:
ass over tincups (or teacups or teakettle) adv phr In or into helplessness; head over heels: "She's so beautiful she'll knock you ass over tincups" [ a variant of the early-20th-century British _arse over tip_, "head over heels"]
Partridge & Beale's _A Dictionary of Slang and Uncoventional English, 8th ed._ (1984) gives the foloowing variants:
arse over ballocks, ... kettle, ... tip, ... tit(s), ... tock, ... tuck, ... turkey, A over T, ack over toc(k), & ... over top.
See also "The Mavens' Word of the Day" at ... e=19960517
Susumu, Japan --July 22, 2003
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ass over teacup / ass over teakettle

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 3:51 am
by Archived Reply
.. in Aus have also heard "base over apex" but "arse over tit" gets the most air .. even in the limerick >>
There was a man from Calcutta
Fell arse over tit in the gutter
The tropical sun
Burned a hole in his bum
And melted his balls to butter.

Wizard of Oz, Australia. 29/07/03
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Re: ass over teacup / ass over teakettle

Posted: Fri May 04, 2012 5:03 am
by Ken Greenwald
I read the following in my latest Kindle acquisition:
<2011 “This wind tosses everything around, tips over furniture as it lifts up the rugs, shatters and scatters the knickknacks on the mantelepieces . . . while the landscapes flip upside down and the full-length portraits go ass over teakettle.”—Lightning: A Novel by Jean Echenoz, page 10>
I was all ready to make a project of the down-home-sounding ASS OVER TEAKETTLE when I figured I ought to do a Wordwizard search just in case. And, by golly, it had been discussed right here back in July of 2003 – how soon we forget!

I won’t repeat what has been written above, but I will reproduce the discussion by Jesse Sheidlower, formerly the Random House ‘Word Maven’ and now editor at large for the Oxford English Dictionary:

MAVENS’ WORD OF THE DAY (website now defunct):
Ass over teakettle is one of many variants of an expression meaning 'head over heels; topsy-turvy; in confusion'. The usual British version is ass over tip (or tit), which occurs in James Joyce's Ulysses, among other works. This form also occurs in America. For instance, in The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has a character say "You jus' scrabblin' ass over tit, fear somebody gonna pin some blame on you."

The earliest known example of the phrase is in an 1899 book about Virginia folk expressions, which defines "ass over head" as "Head over heels; topsy-turvy." (Note that "ass over head" is a logical expression for a messed-up situation, as opposed to "head over heels," which would seem to be the natural order of things.) However, there must have been many different variants even at that time: a 1943 book about Indiana dialect in the 1890s lists "ass over appetite," "ass over applecart," and "ass over endways." The common "teakettle" variation is first found in a 1946 book about fighter pilots in WWII, in a euphemized form: "He displayed a rump-over-tea-kettle aggressiveness in seeking dog-fights."

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1963 “Fast enough . . . only to send Profane, garbage can and lettuce leaves flying ass over teakettle in a great green shower.”—V.: A Novel by T. Pynchon, I. page 23>

<1977 “Sascha's horse . . . stopped short. . . . Sascha went ass over teakettle into the brambles.”—The Company of Friends by J. Crosby, vii. page 51>

<1996 “He steps out there and goes ass over teakettle and every way but up.”—The Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington), 25 November, page 19>

<2004 “Buddy Guy [[American blues guitarist]] jumped off a stage mid-guitar solo, but he didn't realize how high the stage was, and he dropped 10 feet. He fell backward against the canvas, the canvas tore, and he went ass over teakettle backward under the stage, still playing his guitar the entire time. They used a forklift to get him back onstage.”—Boston Herald (Massachusetts), 26 November>

<2011 “. . . when a player tries to throw a heavy body-check along the boards in the neutral zone and launches himself ass-over-teakettle into his own bench.”—CityNews (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 21 December>

Ken G – May 3, 2012