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Michael Douglas and Paul Newman
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Butt Out


By Miranda

Is there anything indelicate in the butt receptacle?

Let me rephrase or punctuate that. Is there anything offensive in using the clue 'butt receptacle' for the word ashtray? In a recent tweet, someone suggested using this clue as "a protest against PCness". A quick search revealed that we already use the clue though, oddly, only for the plural and not as a clue for a singular ashtray.

What protest against PCness is intended by this twitterer (or is one who twitters a 'twit')? Presumably, if you are opposed to PCness then you're willing, even anxious, to offend, so is it the use of the word butt that's offensive or the reference to the social no-no of smoking?

There are a couple of issues here. Is the word butt itself either offensive or indelicate? Historically, using it to refer to your rear end, rather than to an aggressive action by a horned beast, would have been slang at best and the use of slang offends many. Nonetheless 'butt' has become a frequently-used euphemism for bottom, buttocks or - advance warning for the easily offended - bum. This seems to have crept in from the US but it's certainly been widely accepted in Australian English and even, colloquially, in the UK. The dictionaries are divided, as you would expect.

Online, the butts seem to be associated with gyms and exercise – no surprises there – and with any number of pop songs. But if the butt, meaning bottom, were drawn from US slang to provide us with an acceptable euphemism, when did it become offensive again? And how will we ask whether that dress or pair of jeans makes this unmentionable part of the anatomy look big, or not?  In the end, butts have always been containers for things - water, wine, even wool – so I'm thinking of trying 'butt butt'.

Have your say - comment on this blog

7 Responses to

Butt Out

October 13, 2009 at 3:53 PM

lol what a conundrum! A butt butt would be really confusing...or is it for cryptic? By the interpretation we could be wearing butt receptacles daily....maybe it will catch Maybe the butt receptacle is the bottom which receives a butt from a bull? What a ramble! I'm happy for its use to be an ashtray...makes sense to me.

john said:
October 14, 2009 at 5:18 AM

As a smoker I have always put my cigarette butts in butt receptacles or ashtrays. I knew immediately what the clue meant. What is the complainants problem?

deeneecee said:
October 14, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Of course a butt receptacle is an ashtray. If anyone sees anything offensive about the word butt they would belong to the "twit club" I would rather the rear end referred to as a butt than an a.s.

vleong said:
October 16, 2009 at 6:09 PM

vleong said:
October 16, 2009 at 6:12 PM

I do not see anything offensive in the word butt. butt. It is a word in the English dictionary. It is the intent of the user and the mind of the reader. I use it with cheques. Perfectly decent

yow1e said:
October 16, 2009 at 8:27 PM

If "butt" is offensive, then calling someone a "proctalgia" must also be offensive.

spoggy said:
October 19, 2009 at 4:05 PM

for this to be offensive, the person complaining must have chronic neuralgia of the gluteus maximus ! when did people become so sensitive !?