Posted by Bob on February 09, 2005
In Reply to: 'an ass or an elbow' posted by James Briggs on February 09, 2005
: : My daughter was complaining about something last evening, and I said to her, "You know, you're never without an ass or an elbow."
: : Once I had said it, I realized my own mother used to say that to me some years ago when I was growing up in Ireland. Is it/ was it a popoular saying meaning to complain a lot?
: I'm much more familiar with a different version, with a different meanining "you don't know your ass from your elbow", meaning that you're useless in certain respects. I've never heard the Irish version in th UK.
The (original?) joke was three patients in a mental institution given a test to see if they could be released. The first is asked to identify his elbow, and he says "knee." The second is asked to identify his hand and he says "foot." The third is asked to identify his arm, and (to everyone's amazement) gets it right. He's deemed sane, and ready for release. The doctor goes away, and the first two inmates ask him excitedly, "that was amazing. How did you get it right?" In reply, he points to his temple and says, solemly, "I used my ass."
Anyway, that was a howler 50 years ago, and I believe it has lived on all this time. Whether it's related to the Irish expression, I can't say.