Spam filters replace obscene "Ass" for "butt"

Meanwhile, in literature, newspaper articles, forum posts, sayings, proverbs, etc. I am encountering many more expressions with ass but not with butt.

Why is ass considered obscene?

What is the difference between ass and butt?

  • 1
    Sorry to butt in on you.
    – apaderno
    Jan 31, 2011 at 15:08
  • 4
    Donkeys are not obscene. Jan 31, 2011 at 16:04
  • @kiamlaluno, I am not sure whether I understood correctly your comment nut your editing is the most valuable for me feedback Jan 31, 2011 at 18:25
  • 5
    Note that ass is only considered obscene in North America. In Britain, it is considered a "weak, sad word" (-Terry Pratchett), as it an American sanitization of arse, which is the English vulgar word for backside.
    – Carmi
    Jan 31, 2011 at 19:31
  • 5
    Ass could also be quite an old-fashioned insult in British English, something that you might have read in Swallows & Amazons, and would actually refer to the animal.
    – gpr
    Jan 31, 2011 at 22:05

3 Answers 3


Why is ass considered obscene?

When ass is used to refer to the animal, it's generally not considered obscene. Some would consider it obscene when referring to the human posterior, or more likely, when used as an epithet for a boorish or stupid person. Asshole in my view is considered even more obscene.

The "why?" question is pretty subjective. Why is any word considered obscene? It's just the way the word developed and societal convention.

I believe in the spectrum of obscenities, even as an epithet it's not that obscene. In my opinion, a filter which replaces the word with butt is too stringent.

What is the difference between ass and butt?

When referring to anatomy, there's little difference. Each word has other senses, however. An ass can refer to the sure-footed animal smaller than a horse with big ears. It can also mean a pompous fool or be used as slang for sexual intercourse (get some ass).

Butt has many other senses. It can be the part of the trunk of a tree nearest the roots, the victim of ridicule (butt of your jokes), thick end of a handle or stock of a rifle/pistol, the end of a cigarette, or a type of joint (carpentry, not the other type of cigarette.)

Butt can also be used as a verb, to place end to end, to lie adjacent, or to strike or shove against/in between, (to butt in line.)

  • 4
    +1 "Why is any word considered obscene?" My sister refuses to say "butt" when referencing anatomy. She says "bottom." Jan 31, 2011 at 18:21
  • About the other meanings of ass — AFAIK, the "pompous fool"(?) meaning ("Don't be an ass") comes from the donkey, while the sexual meaning ("get some ass") comes from anatomy. Feb 1, 2011 at 6:14

I will answer to the second question.

The words have different meanings; leaving out what the words mean when they are used as verbs, these are the definitions of the words:

butt /bət/
the person or thing at which criticism or humor, typically unkind, is directed: his singing is the butt of dozens of jokes.
• (usually butts) an archery or shooting target or range.
• a mound on or in front of which a target is set up for archery or shooting.

a push or blow, typically given with the head: he would follow up with a butt from his head.

1. (also butt end) the thicker end, especially of a tool or a weapon: a rifle butt.
   • the square end of a plank or plate meeting the end or side of another, as in the side of a ship.
   • the thicker or hinder end of a hide used for leather.
2. (also butt end) the stub of a cigar or a cigarette: the ashtray was crammed with cigarette butts.
3. informal the buttocks.
   • the anus.
4. the trunk of a tree, especially the part just above the ground.

ass /æs/
1. a hoofed mammal of the horse family with a braying call, typically smaller than a horse and with longer ears.
    • Genus Equus, family Equidae: E. africanus of Africa, which is the ancestor of the domestic ass or donkey, and E. hemionus of Asia.
   • (in general use) a donkey.
2. (informal) a foolish or stupid person: that ass of a young man.

  • 1
    As a side note, I will write the meaning of to butt in: take part in a conversation or activity, or enter somewhere, without being invited or expected. That is the meaning of sorry to butt in on you.
    – apaderno
    Jan 31, 2011 at 15:41

I'm sure you know the different meanings of ass. For the vulgar meaning it comes from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European "Orse" which means (“backside, buttocks, butt”). In this meaning it's widely used in North America.

Note: Also it has some other word origins.

  • I did not write that I did not know. But I did not know that "ass" is considered obscene while "butt" not. In my exp the "ass" is more widely used and in any spectrum of contexts and situations Jan 31, 2011 at 19:45

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