or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 3/16/08

   March 22nd, 2008

Half moonI am surprised this patron was able to ask me this with a straight face:

Patron: You how doing something poorly is called doing it "half-ass?" What do they call it if you do a good job: full-ass or no-ass?

We actually do have quite a few slang dictionaries and word origins books, but I honestly couldn't tell if this was a serious question or not. Not that I should treat it any differently, but I'm generally paranoid and had a suspicion that someone was putting me on just to see how far I'd take this.

So instead of hitting the authoritative print resources ("authoritative," in this case, is a relative term), I started with internet searching.

I first went right to the Urban Dictionary and searched for half-ass, hoping the definitions would also list antonyms. They didn't (nor did half-assed). So, I looked up both full-ass and full-assed, and no-ass and no-assed.

Based on those entries, we concluded that the opposite of half-ass is full-ass; or, "to perform at an exceptional level of quality."

However, wanting to verify this conclusion against another source, I did an internet search for "opposite of half-assed" and found wordie.org, "a social network for people who love words." Their definition of half-assed included the line "The opposite of full-assed."

This corroboration was good enough for both me and the patron (who seemed genuinely interested the entire time), so I never even checked our print resources.

Tax dollars well spent, yes?

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 3/16/08”

  1. Chris Says:

    That’s one serious-ass question. I laughed my – well, you know – off.

  2. Liz Says:

    That sounds like one of those seemingly innocuous but really complex questions kids ask – why is the sky blue? where does trash go? why do they call it half-assed?

    And though it’s really off-topic, this did remind me of a great Simpsons – Homer tries to spend “quality time” with the kids (smothering them in the process) and Bart tells him his half-assed underparenting was better than his half-assed overparenting, and he says “Awww. But I’m using my WHOLE ass.”

    See, when you need the answer to a question, just go to The Simpsons.

  3. Reader Says:

    we debated both interpretations and the entire “ass-ness” scale – we think “full-assed” is “total incompetence at doing something”