Friday, July 22, 2011

Antonyms for "breakfast table"

Elif Batuman recently posted about asshole/arsehole -- following up on the excellent Hegelian synthesis of "douchebag" and "asshole" into "sleazebag" -- and brought up this excellent OED quotation:
1948    Landfall 2 178   It's absolute comfort from arse-hole to breakfast-table.
It's pretty, but what does it mean? As you might expect, Jonathon Green has the answer -- though unfortunately under F rather than under A:
from arsehole to breakfast table (NZ, 1940s+) completely, entirely.

There is a synonymous & roughly contemporaneous American construction, from asshole to appetite, as well as the older from arsehole to breakfast time, which means "all the way, all the time." (One thinks of the arsehole and the breakfast table as analogous to Scylla and Charybdis, or perhaps the two stone lions of the NYPL.) What is slightly confusing, perhaps, is that very similar phrases are also listed under A but w/ a subtle shift in meaning:
arseholes to breakfast time. very unsatisfactory, totally confused, very chaotic.

Opposite column has a huge list of hardware-store-evoking synonyms for penis that I was compelled to type out in sheer admiration:
arse-opener. the penis (cf. arse-wedge, ass-breaker, auger, beard-splitter, beaver cleaver, bitch hammer, bore, bush-beater, bushwhacker, cherry-splitter, cleat, cock-hammer, cock-opener, crack-hunter, cranny-hunter, crowbar, cunt-buster, eye-opener, guthammer, gut-wrench, hair-divider, kidney-buster, kidney-prodder, kidney-scraper, kidney-wiper, liver-disturber, lung-disturber, marrowbone and cleaver, meat-cleaver, rump-splitter, shit-stabber, split mutton, tickler, tonsil-tickler, wedge, womb-beater).
Well! (NB an arsehole-perisher is not one of these, but is instead a jacket that's too short.)

PS some connective linkage: an old post on asshole/arsehole, Larry Summers spec. on asshole, David Crystal on the history of synonyms for posterior.

PPS For "liver-disturber" cf. Portnoy (etymologically unrelated, as "liver-disturber" dates from late C19.)

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