jackass
Posted: 14 November 2013 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From Online Etymology:

jackass (n.)
mule ass, 1727, from jack (n.) + ass (n.1). Meaning “stupid person” is attested from 1823.

So why “Jack?”

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Posted: 14 November 2013 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Dictionaries I trust more than the Online Etymology site give the original sense as “a male donkey” (I think “mule ass” is a typo for “male ass") and indicate that the “jack” element comes from the male name. Cf. tomcat, billy goat.

[ Edited: 14 November 2013 08:43 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 14 November 2013 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, “Jack” has commonly been applied to animal names to denote the male. (OED, Jack, n.1.C4.)

I’ll bet both the 1727 and 1823 dates can be antedated. The OED entry hasn’t been revised.

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Posted: 15 November 2013 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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And jenny has equally been used to denote the female of various kinds of animal, including jenny-ass.

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