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Pain in the kiester

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 17, 2005

In Reply to: Pain in the kiester posted by Cheryl on July 17, 2005

: What is the origin of pain in the kiester?

: Thanks!

: Cheryl

Well, Cheryl, it all started out as American slang, "you give me a pain" and similar expressions, like "he's a real pain." In 1911 or so (I'm giving the dates from citations in the OED), it became "pain in the neck." In the never-ending search for stronger or more colorful language, another variant appeared, "pain in the rear end" , then "pain in the ass" , "pain in the bahakas" . Eventually the expression migrated to England and became "pain in the arse." Nowadays one often hears "pain in the butt," which could prompt another diversion into linguistic history.

You probably won't find "kiester" in the dictionary. However, since about 1881 the word "keister" has been in use, meaning "satchel" or some synonym. By 1931 it had acquired a secondary meaning, as per the OED: " 2. The buttocks. [Earliest citation:]
1931 Amer. Speech VI. 439 Keister, a satchel; also what one sits on." Notice the delicacy--"what one sits on." Substituting "pain in the keister" for "pain in the ass" is, of course, another example of delicacy. As regards the spelling, the usual sound, "keester" is a mistake for "kie-ster" (rhymes with pie-ster), but in correcting the mistake the path usually chosen has been to "correct" the spelling rather than the pronunciation. Sometimes the word is spelled "keester," which is another rational way to miscorrect the spelling. Clear? SS

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