Why would any state consider a slogan that even a portion of the population would consider vulgar, especially Kentucky that is firmly in the conservative Bible Belt? One detractor said, “As a visitor, it makes me think, ‘I don’t want to go to Kentucky and get my ass kicked.'”
A recent article on the BBC website suggests the expression probably began in the military, where the full version was “kicking ass and taking names.” The move from the military domain to that of sports was an obvious one. Then, like many words and phrases that begin as borderline obscene, “kick ass” gradually entered the general vocabulary as its real meaning got diluted by familiarity. The BBC points out the expression has now become a catch-all superlative or to describe any bold action. A chess player could “kick ass” by a surprise move, or a florist could arrange a “kick-ass” bouquet. I suppose I could post a “kick-ass” blog someday.
My volleyball-playing granddaughters wear T-shirts with the swaggering slogan, “I bust mine so I can kick yours,” that clearly refers to the phrase without actually saying it, although I find it funny because I have never seen them work hard enough to bust anything.
The article astutely points out that such expressions become acceptable at least in part because politicians love them. It makes them sound strong and decisive, in touch with the public, plain-speaking like one of the guys. All good stuff to a politician.
When discussing the Gulf oil spill, President Obama stated that he would find out “whose ass to kick.” George W Bush resolved to find the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and “kick their ass.” Before them, Nixon privately used the phrase in the Watergate tapes. When our presidents use an expression, can’t we all?
Maybe we can, but maybe we shouldn’t.