English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was reading The Watchmen (a graphic novel) and stumbled across this expression in a conversation between two cops talking about Rorschach. I suppose it means "We'll have to put up a fight", but I am not sure.

share|improve this question
I guess it's this Rorschach rather than the inkblot Rorschach. – Andrew Leach Jul 25 '14 at 6:28
up vote 16 down vote accepted

A more common idiom is being knee deep or up to your knees in something, meaning that something reaches one's knees. When you are up to your knees in water, you have gone in to a point that you are definitely wet, and more importantly, there is so much water around, that walking gets more difficult (you move from walking to wading).

It is applied to other things as well, meaning that you are surrounded by a large amount of it, literally or figuratively (knee deep in sh!t means you are in a bunch of trouble).

In the same way, the person who said We'll be up to our butts in corpses means that once they are done with what they are going to do, corpses will be piled up around them up to the level of their behinds. Whether that will be literally the case is not relevant: the message is that there will be a fair amount of dead people, once they are done.

Note that the sentence as you quoted it is ungrammatical. It may be a typo on your side or an oversight of the editor, but it should either be we'll be up to our butts in corpses, or I'll be up to my but in corpses. It escapes me why one person would refer to multiple butts in this way.

share|improve this answer
agreed that it's ungrammatical, including in the "as English is actually spoken" sense. – user36720 Jul 25 '14 at 14:23
A bit illogical sure, but ungrammatical I think no. Perhaps the 2nd party is positioned in such a way that his butt will be at the level of the corpses, but the rest of his body is not in the corpses. Maybe he's flying and his butt is hanging down, while only Rorschach is standing and must be in the corpses. Or, given that this is a metaphor, we are not necessarily constrained to physical situations. In any case, there are two things, "I", and "our butts", and I think there's no grammatical rule requiring them to be in any kind of agreement. – Phil Frost Jul 25 '14 at 14:27
@Phil The title has been fixed by the asker now, so it was presumably just a typo. Even so, I cannot see any way for “I’ll be up to our butts in X” to be grammatical, barring parallel universes where multiple people’s back sides regularly attach themselves to single individuals. It’s as ungrammatical to me as asking, “Is it all right if I just help ourselves?” (in the help yourself sense of taking something without waiting for someone to serve it to you). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 25 '14 at 17:14

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.