Kiss my arse! The origin of phrases

Professor Kevin Schurer tells is about the origins of phrases, including the expression ‘Kiss my arse!’

Video transcript

'Kiss my arse!' That's a phrase that's often used today, a kind of phrase of contempt - "go away" "stop bothering me" - but it also has a slightly different meaning and that is "do something quite repulsive in order to impress me".

We often use phrases and idioms in every day speech but we very rarely think about the origins of these phrases. Today I am going to tell you about the historical background.

So where did this originate? A lot of people would assume that it's quite a recent expression, possibly with America as the place of origin. However it's very clear that the phrase was actually used in Hanoverian England - there's a cartoon that portrays the politician Charles Fox kissing the arses of voters in the election of 1784.

This in itself was a kind of satire if you like, and a comment on the fact that one of his big supporters in the election campaign for Westminster was the notorious Duchess of Devonshire who apparently kissed a shopkeeper for the promise of his vote, hence the satirical cartoon showing Fox kissing the arses of shopkeepers and small businessmen in order to win their votes.

If you want to find out more about these phrases and their roots, then come to the University of Leicester and study with us on a History degree.