THE OLD FORT: A MUSING FROM THE OIL SANDS
A Philosophy on A**holes
PADDY DIED IN A FIRE. IT WAS A TERRIBLE tragedy and he was burnt almost beyond recognition. To save his wife the pain of identifying the somewhat crispy remains, the coroner asked for his two lifelong friends Mick and Willy to come down to the morgue and identify him.
Mick took one look and said, “He’s burnt pretty bad all right. Roll him over would you?”
So they rolled him over and Mick said, “That ain’t him.”
The coroner thought that was rather strange so he brought Willy in.
Willy took a look and said, “Yup, he’s burnt real bad, I can’t tell from the front. Roll him over.”
Again the coroner rolled him over and Willy looked down and said, “No, it ain’t Paddy.”
The coroner asked, “How can you tell?”
Willy said, “Well, Paddy had two a**holes.”
“What? He had two a**holes?”
“Yup, everyone knew that. Every time we went into town, folks would say, ‘Here comes Paddy with them two a**holes.’”
Like so many pejorative words, a**hole has a confused etymology. It comes down from the old English arse, which referred to the whole of the sit-upon area. When a more vulgar yet specific geographic location was needed (the hole instead of the whole, as it were), then arsehole came into favour as the ruder, less enlightened synonym of anus. A**hole was a natural evolution on the distaff side of the Atlantic, and it really became popular as a description of unloved officers during World War II.
It is a bit of a mystery why such a useful part of the anatomy came to be used in so contemptuous a manner. To call someone an a**hole should mean, “You are a distasteful yet incredibly useful part of the human body.” There is some conjecture that the original phrase was “You’re a tight a**hole”; in other words someone who is full of crap, and from that evolved both a**hole (a person beneath contempt) and tighta**.
The latter now means a cheapskate, (Johnny is such a tighta** that he dropped a penny once and it hit him on the back of his head as he bent to pick it up), and a**hole is what it is, and all this goes to show is that the English language always seems to mutate in a most peculiar manner.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is hard to imagine how modern political discussion could have expressed itself properly in the last 50 years without the availability of the word. It has such a concise, precise meaning. So much is conveyed in this minuscule invective. To label someone an a**hole is to condemn him to that forlorn contemptible club of lost causes that we ourselves would never join.
A more curious phenomenon is that, like the joke at the top of the column, they tend to come in pairs. This is because a person described as an a**hole rarely got into that state by himself. They need a counterpoint to feed off and the sum of the whole of the two a**holes is always far greater than the parts. For every Bush, there’s always a Cheney.
More germane though, is how many a**holes there are on Council. When these guys were first elected, zealous as a Jehovah’s Witness with a foot in the door, I thought there were five or six candidates for the title.
However, once the campaign promises were met, most of them realized that after a shake up there has to be a calming down, (also it’s hard to scream at someone when there’s no one left to scream at).
One by one the candidates fell by the wayside of sheepish acknowledgement. Slowly they started to realize that with a modicum of power comes a smidgen of responsibility.
Except for the two remaining a**holes.
They’re easy to spot. As everyone else tries to work together, they’ll be the two trying to undermine with fake concern, derail with delay. For the eight plus the mayor, it is now mostly about what’s good for Fort McMurray. For these two, it’s about what’s good for them.