Can't be arsed

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

Can't be arsed

Post by trolley » Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:55 am

I read, this morning about a fellow who “couldn’t be arsed to change the music.” Canadian English is an odd mix of British and American English, so I am familiar with the word “arse”. This was new to me, though. I thought perhaps it was a typo for “asked” but that really didn’t seem to make much sense, either. From the context, it seemed to mean “couldn’t be bothered”. Sure enough, it does but no one explains why. Is this a different arse all together? Maybe he’s just too lazy to get up off his arse and change the music? Maybe it's Cockney rhyming slang?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:40 am

I don't know if there's a definitive answer to your question, but the explanation you suggested that to me rings truest is this:

"He’s just too lazy to get up off his arse".

I'm almost certain it isn't Cockney rhyming slang, which typically uses a euphemistic or obscuring rhyming word or expression to stand in for a vulgar word in references to the human body; however, "Can't be arsed to..." is distinctly uneuphemized.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by tony h » Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:31 pm

When I was a child, and people were more polite, it was normal to say in telling someone to not be lazy and get on with something : "shift your bottom", "get off your backside".
It doesn't seem too difficult to see this become "shift your arse", "move your arse". And then to see the opposite, to mean "I can't be bothered", to be "can't be arsed".
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:30 am

I get the impression that it is a play on, "can't be asked". It just seemed to appear and slipped into common usage.
Just like the now ubiquitous and infuriating method of starting a sentence, "So....".
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by trolley » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:37 am

Good one, Bob. The "asked" theory didn't make much sense to me because I'd never heard the expression "couldn't be asked" before. I just now realized how it works... "I wouldn't do it, even if I was asked ".
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by Phil White » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:30 pm

There's a number of expressions that feature "arse/ass" and are peculiar in meaning:
  • Can't be arsed
  • Half-arsed
  • Get one's arse in gear
The first two of these seem to suggest a correlation between "arse" and "effort". The third appears to be similar to the idea mentioned above of getting one's arse off the sofa.

It has been suggested that "half-arsed" is a (jocular) misunderstanding of "haphazard".

Nothing I have seen seems to provide a particularly coherent explanation of the meaning, but it may be worth comparing two other similar expressions with identical meanings:
  • Can't be buggered
    (My guess is that this derives directly from "can't be bothered")
  • Can't be fucked
Offhand, I can't think of any other examples of "can't be " + swearword + "ed", in this meaning, so it is not a generic pattern:
"*I would write some more, but I can't be pricked"...
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by trolley » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:25 pm

I always wondered about a "half-arsed effort". I don't ever recall any of my coaches winding us up with a pregame pep-talk about going out there and giving our full arse...
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by tony h » Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:30 pm

trolley wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:25 pm
giving our full arse...
So I am told ... the original game of football was played by teams of10. The owners berated the manager to get their team to give 110% so he put another player on the pitch making the, now traditional, team of eleven. Meanwhile in the junior game they played five-a-side which meant the manager could only make a half arsed attempt to accede to the owners' directive. bom bom.

No it wasn't worth it.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Can't be arsed

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Mar 02, 2018 4:29 pm

Excellent Tony. That gets to the bottom of it.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply