Last year this column dealt with the indiscriminate use of the word “like”, first among pre-teens, then with teens, young adults and finally soccer moms trying to sound hip.
The “like” epidemic was joined concurrently by “no problem.” Virtually all conversations, particularly among the young, contain a numbing number of “likes” and “no problems”.
While annoying in the extreme, grammatically unsound, and often devoid of meaning, neither reaches the level of bad taste, or provokes demands for censorship from the conservative right.
While there will always be local idioms, largely geographically defined, for every “like” there are ten “Y’alls.” Very rarely do we develop new genuinely crude, vulgar, or graphic figures of speech which achieve the universal prominence/acceptance of “piece of ass”, “kick ass”, “fat ass”, “blow it out your ass”, “shove it up your ass”, or “kiss my ass.”
In fact, I can think of none in the past 25 years, save “hooking up”, which only inflames the radical right if they figure out what it means.
From out of the blue, no pun intended, comes “smells like ass” which has achieved unusually broad acceptance, particularly among kids, almost overnight.
While there are very few things that really do smell like ass, young people seem to be looking for almost any opportunity to make the connection.
Exponential growth among women in the consumption of thongs, bikini briefs, and ass “huggers” in the apparel, lingerie and ready-to-wear arena may account for similar increase in ass awareness, if not outright fascination. It is still a significant reach to figure out “smell.”
From experience, asses have the same texture, resilience and musculature as many other parts of the body, and no particularly distinctive odor. The same cannot be said for flatulence and fecal matter which reflect the contents and condition of the digestive system, not the soft tissue which surrounds the point of exit.
How can the trunk of a car, the inside of a microwave, a freezer drawer, a gym locker, a pair of running shoes, a smoke-filled bar or an old sweatshirt, all smell like ass? With the exception of the sweatshirt, there is no way for any of the afore mentioned places or things to get close enough to an ass to acquire the smell even if the smell existed.
Perhaps it is just no longer cool to say smells like shit, a genuinely accepted figure of speech since the turn of the century, but rather more artistic, cosmopolitan and contemporary to substitute, “smells like ass”.
Ass is clearly less confining than shit, subject to a much broader assortment of olfactory sensations, and therefore more versatile.
Asses often provoke among members of both sexes both positive, stimulating, often erotic connotations and images. Clearly shit does not. Perhaps young people use the expression not just to criticize and insult, but to subliminally arouse.
Sexologists have long emphasized the importance of smells in an active and healthy sex life. What you are smelling and how you react depends on technique, hygiene, physical condition, climate and personal preference.
There are vastly more offensive odors than ass. Sour milk, mold, decay, wet cat, port-a-potty, vomit, rotten eggs, garbage truck, county morgue, ammonia, smelling salts, limburger, jock strap, slaughter house, pig sty, bat cave or Korean food.
Juxtaposed to all of the above, ass takes on the character of a spring morning at the beach, a bouquet of cut flowers, a baby fresh from the bath, a newly baked chocolate cake.
It’s hoped that over time that being told something smells like ass elicits a smile, devoid of shock or embarrassment.
Firming up, trimming down, shaping up asses is a major growth industry. Blue jeans are the dominant item of apparel worldwide for all ages and genders, at least in part for their ass enhancing capabilities. Lee jeans, a division of VF Corporation, has long commanded the biggest share of the women’s jeans business, because no other company possesses their expertise in fitting female asses.
Jennifer Lopez, owner of perhaps the decade’s most extraordinary and photogenic ass, in my view could market “eau d ass” perfume or aftershave and could have customers lining up in droves for a whiff.
Like all evolving idioms, only time will tell. In the meantime, one sniff is worth a thousand words.