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The relation between asinine and ass is pretty apparent, and I know that ass isn't a very acceptable word, but is asinine? If it were used in an essay for school or during discussion would it be considered vulgar or inappropriate?

Alexy's course of action in this text was rather asinine.

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I don't see any relation between those words, and I don't see why asinine shouldn't be used, especially when its usage is proper and desiderable, as it is the case here. – Elberich Schneider Dec 28 '13 at 13:49
Huhuh, you said "essay". And Elberich said "as", huhuh. – RegDwigнt Dec 28 '13 at 13:49
Elberich Schneider:They might not actually be related but they do sound somewhat similar RegDwigнt: I see what you did there – thekeyofgb Dec 28 '13 at 13:53
The two words are actually related etymologically (both probably from some Middle Eastern language originally, through either Latin asinus ‘donkey’ or some Celtic language in a form like *assin or *assil). But I have never heard anyone actually associate the two with each other cognitively. And it should be borne in mind that the relation is only between ‘ass’ (meaning donkey) and ‘asinine’—it is completely unrelated to ‘arse/ass’ (meaning butt). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 28 '13 at 14:00
@Janus: I see your point, but in such contexts it's largely irrelevant whether the person who takes offence can actually justify their position. If you feel offended, you are offended - regardless of whether other people say you shouldn't be. That's why I specifically mentioned Americans re "niggardly". I've never heard of it being a genuine issue in the UK - we only normally mention it as a somewhat ridiculous "non-issue", probably more illustrative of "litigious America" than of people with limited vocabularies. – FumbleFingers Dec 28 '13 at 22:08
up vote 6 down vote accepted

asinine adjective

extremely stupid or foolish:
  Lydia ignored his asinine remark


The word has one s because it's derived from the Latin asinus, "ass; donkey". There's nothing remotely vulgar about the word.

As for connotation, it imparts an air of contempt.

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Asinine means ‘extremely stupid or foolish’ and is perfectly acceptable in a school context. It has nothing to do with arse, if that’s what you’re thinking.

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I tend to notice, and not only in English, a tendency to use certain pejoratives based on the assumption as to whether the object of the chosen word would be assumed to understand its meaning. There is not necessarily any relation between that phenomenon and the physical presence of said object, but maybe the underlying thought is that, although we spoke our mind about them, even if they heard they would not take offence and possibly resort to non-verbal retorts.

Of course, this tactic can heavily backfire when the object of the pejorative understands 'asinine' to mean 'like an arse' rather than 'like a donkey'...

To actually answer the question, I'd say that the use of asinine would be quite acceptable, as long as the (intended) audience actually understands its meaning. This, however, holds true for almost any part of speech that could or would be construed by the audience as slang, jargon or simple obfuscation ("look at them guys wi' all of 'm fancy words!").

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I have yet to see anyone get in trouble for using the word "asinine". Depending on the kind of essay you're writing, it's probably fine. However, if you are arguing a point, calling the opposition asinine is usually considered ad-hominem, and not acceptable.

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