half-assed (pun?)

mia0815

Senior Member
Taiwanese
Bob came downstairs to say good-bye and could not resist having a little bit of fun. "I see there are two kinds of time in Austria," he told the clerk, as a sly smile crossed his face. "Fast and half-assed." [...] The clerk looked blankly at the three Americans; despite his command of English, he clearly did not
catch the meaning of Bob's pun.

50 Children by Steven Pressman

How is half-assed a pun in the context?
I don't really get it.
Is the term implying anything about the hotel clerk (who purposefully delays delivering the bill as he is still waiting for Nazi's orders) ?
Please help. Thank you.
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    An internet provider here in the US is currently running a TV advertising campaign here jeering at its competition, a campaign that uses this very gimmick. Company A claims that while company B's downloads are speedy, its uploads are much slower. The characters in the commercial repeatedly comment that company B's service is only "half-fast"—which is pronounced, when said quickly, exactly the same as "half-assed". The latter term would not be permitted on regular TV channels.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Don't be too concerned about not getting the pun, miao815. It's completely unintelligible to me as a BE speaker - until explained.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Perhaps we should explain, for those unfamiliar with the humor here, that (a) "half-assed" is a semi-vulgar slang term meaning stupid or ineffectual; (b) there is in fact no such word as "half-fast".
     
    Andy, I think we may have infected you. Here are some of the hundreds examples of British usage on the 'net.

    TMF: Re: Secret emails at No. 10 / Land Of Serious Topics
    boards.fool.co.uk/yet-more-half-assed-attempts-to-smear-the-10377414.aspx

    Yet more half-assed attempts to smear the government... Quite a clever one really -

    www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk › Forums › General forums › Time Out
    Ranson only if your rich. | UK Business Forums

    Feb 1, 2010 - 20 posts - ‎10 authors
    Strange how british shipping companies have been allowed to pay 10's ... so why would we negotiate with these half-assed attempts at pirates?

    www.theguardian.com › Culture › Movies › Madonna
    Directing: a movie stars' substitute for psychoanalysis | Film ...
    [Alex Cox wrote]
    May 25, 2007 - ... 40 years of half-assed attempts at directing he has never developed a style of his own
    --------------------


    Don't be too concerned about not getting the pun, miao815. It's completely unintelligible to me as a BE speaker - until explained.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    You really mean, if I said this to you-- "I finally got your letter here in Canada, after four weeks. You told me the British post was fast, but I'd say they are, at best, only half fast" you would not know what it meant?

    I've never heard it either. Strange that it would be strictly US, but who knows? Maybe it's like "new direction": once you've heard the pun, you can't unhear it, but a surprising number of people haven't heard it.:D
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Andy, I think we may have infected you. Here are some of the hundreds examples of British usage on the 'net.

    TMF: Re: Secret emails at No. 10 / Land Of Serious Topics
    boards.fool.co.uk/yet-more-half-assed-attempts-to-smear-the-10377414.aspx



    www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk › Forums › General forums › Time Out


    www.theguardian.com › Culture › Movies › Madonna

    --------------------
    I'm surprised by this. In Britain the phrase is 'half-arsed'. It is quite possible that they are pronouncing it the British way but writing it the AE way because that's what they have seen online without hearing it spoken.

    Note

    In Britain, 'half-assed' does not necessarily rhyme with 'half fast'. Neither for that matter does 'half arsed'. The pun makes sense only in certain local accents.
     
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    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I would understand "half fast" in benny's scenario. It means "part(ly) fast", or, maybe better put "halfways fast".

    Not an overly common construction, but normal. You could add "half" to almost anything, depending on the context.

    PETA may get mad at this example (I'm making it up), but let's say you see a cat on the street, from only a side profile, and you say "Look at that beautiful cat", then the cat hears you and faces you, and the side of the face you can't see is disfigured, and the eye is discolored. You say: Well half beautiful (half ;) in jest).
     
    I think this is a good point, Biffo. "half assed" pronounced that way isn't--in my opinion--a British expresssion, but an import. That's because the posterior, as far as I know, in Britain is not an 'ass'; the word refers to a donkey.

    Americans, play with lots of adjectives derived from 'ass'; those as such wouldn't be expected in BE.
    Example. Boss to employee. "Get your sorry ass busy in your assigned tasks." When that doesn't happen, "Your sorry-assed [cf. half-assed] efforts in your assigned tasks have been noted and you are docked one day's pay."

    I am hypothesizing, but I doubt "sorry-assed"--at least in that form-- is part of British English, unless it's now an import. As to whether a BE version, "sorry-arsed," exists, I have no idea.


    I'm surprised by this. In Britain the phrase is 'half-arsed'. It is quite possible that they are pronouncing it the British way but writing it the AE way because that's what they have seen online without hearing it spoken.

    Note

    In Britain, 'half-assed' does not necessarily rhyme with 'half fast'. Neither for that matter does 'half arsed'. The pun makes sense only in certain local accents.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Sorry to have missed the fun.
    Andy, I think we may have infected you. Here are some of the hundreds examples of British usage on the 'net.-

    No no benny, it's the "half fast " bit that we BE speakers don't understand.:confused:

    Never heard it in my life, and would have to understand it from the context. it sounds - er, weird.
    benny, you ought to know better than to quote from blogs and anything published in the Grauniad - it's famous for being the only paper in Britain having a misprint editor: a chap who puts them in to maintain their average.

    Indeed, I do understand that an "ass" is something we sit on in both BE and AE, but the BE version has big teeth, four legs and a tail, and quite likes oats and carrots. As pointed out, our equivalent to "half-assed" cannot make a pun with "half fast", except in the most contrived Rodney and Rupert accent, and "half fast" sounds, as velisarius said "er, weird". I've never come across "sorry-assed".
     
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