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Dec 3 2013   1:24PM GMT

“Ass” as an intensifier and why we need hyphens: big ass pizza

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang Drop down to the lounge at four – to celebrate the end of a very successful fiscal quarter, we’re treating your team to a case of beer and a ______________________.
a. big-ass pizza
b. big ass pizza

Answer: a

Explanation:

Big-ass is a compound adjective meaning very large. Hyphens tell us how the sequence of words combines so we can determine the meaning.

Without the hyphen, the sentence would mean that you were treating the team to a large pizza made of ass. Which, of course, could mean that it was either:

A. donkey meat, or

B. the posterior of some other animal.

Ass is a slangy intensifier — a word that increases the significance of the word it combines with. For example, the lazy-ass employees don’t get invited to the pizza party. See more discussion of ass as an intensifier on Everything2.

This question was a gift. It appeared in my Twitter feed more or less as: We bought the employees a big ass pizza. (I hope the employees appreciated it!)

twitter bird  Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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