Posted by Lewis on September 05, 2003
In Reply to: Re: Half-assed posted by ESC on September 05, 2003
: : Is the expression correctly worded as "half fast" or "half assed"??????? I understand it to mean a job poorly done but am debating on the actual phrase.
: From Merriam-Webster online:
: Main Entry: half-assed
: Pronunciation: 'haf-'ast, 'h[a']f-'[a']st
: Function: adjective
: Date: circa 1932
: 1 often vulgar : lacking significance, adequacy, or completeness
: 2 often vulgar : lacking intelligence, character, or effectiveness
: - half-assed adverb, often vulgar
British English is "half-arsed" - on the basis that a bottom (coll. "arse") is only useful if it has both cheeks/buttocks - so half an arse is incomplete and useless.
it may have been a development from "half-cocked" which although sounding the more vulgar version, refers to the proper priming of firearms - something going off "half-cocked" is something ill-prepared and unlikely to work. If a flint-lock musket/rifle were only partly cocked that meant that the firing mechanism had not been fully pulled back into place. The spring needs to have full tension to be able to flick the flint forward against the firing plate with the best guarantee of sparking, which would thus ignite the power in the priming pan. if the firing mechanism went off half-cocked, it would be unlikely that the gunpowder would catch light and the gun fire.
half-arsed and half-cocked are most often used figuratively about ill-made plans and unrefined ideas.