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I heard this phrase when I was watching Battleship. An old man said,

"Somebody is gonna kiss the donkey."

I do not know what it means, I only heard it in a movie. What is this phrase mean?

In Addition:

I think it was Rihanna who said "Saddle Ridge will be in weapons range in five minutes," then the old man stated the phrase.

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    I haven't seen the film. Another word for Donkey is Ass though. So maybe the claim here that it means "someone will kiss their ass goodbye" could be credible? Does that make sense in context? Sep 21, 2014 at 13:29
  • Not an expression I’ve ever heard. Could you edit your question to give some more context, please? Like, what’s going on when the old man says it? Sep 21, 2014 at 13:47
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    It's not a standard idiom, but I think @Martin has nailed the allusion. It's sci-fi, in which context scriptwriters often throw in credible, easily-understood "made-up slang of the future". I just found the exact context in a subtitle file (at 1h:43m:36s) CORA: "Saddle Ridge will be in weapons range in five minutes!". OLD MAN: "Oh, brother, somebody is going to kiss the donkey!". Which strongly suggests death and destruction is imminent. Sep 21, 2014 at 14:11
  • @FumbleFingers you also included the timeline :-)
    – rpm07
    Sep 21, 2014 at 14:17
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    @FumbleFingers I have nothing to say. However, I do appreciate your honesty and your answer for my question. :-)
    – rpm07
    Sep 21, 2014 at 14:54

4 Answers 4

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It is a confused attempt at a play on (for example) "kiss my ass," or, some similar phrase.

It is quite common in English today that idioms get mangled.

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  • Battleship is rated PG-13. The word "ass" (referring to one's backside) occurs elsewhere in the film.
    – pazzo
    Sep 22, 2014 at 15:46
  • @CarSmack - worthy information.
    – Fattie
    Sep 22, 2014 at 17:51
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The idea that "kiss the donkey" might be related to "kiss my ass" didn't make sense to me. The context is wrong. So I did some hunting. By 1950 the phrase was so common that it was simply assumed what an author was talking about.

Books: Kiss the Donkey THE MAN WHO LIVED BACKWARD (461 pp.) — Malcolm Ross — Farrar, Straus ($3.50)....If Author Ross had been satisfied merely to pin the tail on his pseudo-liberal donkey, his book might have been a very witty one. As it is, he all too often confuses the silly ass with some of the hard-headed heroes of U.S. history, and starts throwing him political kisses. A man can look mighty foolish kissing a donkey. (Source)

So I made the assumption it might have a World War II or Pre-WWII reference. My first clues came from a transcription from the 1937 New York Radio Daily.

Feb. 26, 1937 J. C. will introduce a game called "Kiss The Donkey."

and

Mar. 3, 1937 Georgie Hale will be honored at the "Kiss the Donkey" party Sunday in Leon & Eddie's.

So, we have two ideas. Sometime in 1936-1937 there was a game called "Kiss the Donkey" and in early 1937 there was a "Kiss the Donkey" party. I decided to chase the "party" angle first.

An OCR from the New York Daily News, March 6, 1937:

They're playing a game called "Kiss the Donkey" at leon and Eddie's Sunday nites.

OK, so it's not a party, it's a party game!

And here my research stalled. "Kiss the donkey" in a game context has been around a long time, yet while I can find numerous references to its use, I can't find anywhere a game called "kiss the donkey" save in one instance in 1984–1986:

The Odd Couple, neil Simon's new version [of his original play] written from the woman's point of view — Felix becomes Florence and Oscar becomes Olive and the infamous poker game is transformed into "Kiss the Donkey," a game with more wild cards than anyone can keep track of. (Source) (other sources of this play indicate every card is a wild card.)

And yet in the many instances (mostly post 1980) I found, the context seemed to be the same: the ignominy of losing a contest. If that context can be brought to bear (and in my opinion it suits the context of the movie Battleship better than "kiss my ass," which I believe is a taunt that means, "you're less than I am"), then the meaning in the movie is similar to "screw the pooch," meaning "you've lost."

I conclude that the meaning of "somebody is gonna kiss the donkey" is "someone is going to lose."

And if I had the 16-inch guns of the U.S.S. Missouri pointed at me, I would be inclined to agree.

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  • I agree the accepted answer does not convince. Saying that, there's the possibility that "donkey" was used as a euphemism for ass, because times were different back in the 50s and terms of vulgarity (however mild they seem today) were not published in newspapers. Just an idea. +1 for the research.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 22 at 8:16
  • @Mari-LouA You might not be wrong. There were specific instances as far back as the 1800s when the concept was specifically to "kiss the donkey below its tail." But things got so muddy after that thanks to the concept of kissing the donkey's nose (a "suitable" party sport on sunny days when the public bets its local leadership they can't throw a baseball) that I couldn't be certain. But I believe there is a contextual difference between "kiss my ass" (submission) vs. "kiss the donkey" (you lose! Now suffer the dishonor!). Thanks for the vote!
    – JBH
    Feb 23 at 3:14
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This is a Wiki post which means anyone can freely edit, improve or add any relevant information. No one will gain any reputation points.

In the film Battleship, the catchphrase Oh brother, somebody gonna kiss the donkey is uttered by the character JPJ Sailor. The website Aloha On My Mind claims it is Hawaiian slang or Pidgin but doesn't provide a translation.

I did, however, find the word donkey listed on the Hawaiian website Write Pidgin in its introduction it says

Diffren peopo write dea Pidgin language diffren way. Dis how us guys write um fo Da Jesus Book. If you like write um some odda way, az okay, no bodda us guys. Gotta chop up da alphabets so da Internet can bring um to you mo quick. Click da one you like check.

Under the letter -D, donkey is listed and an example of how the word is used is the following

mill stone: two big stones fo make wheat flour. Da small kine, two wahines can turn da top one togedda. Da big kine, need one donkey fo turn um

So, unsurprisingly, donkey in Hawaiian means donkey in English. Which leaves me with two plausible explanations for the catchphrase.

First, in the UK an ass is just another name for donkey. The American slang kiss my ass! (BrEng arse) to a Brit would literally mean "kiss my donkey"; therefore, somebody is gonna kiss the donkey means that person's request or wish is going to be rejected aggressively. Not having seen the film, I suspect the to-be-kissed-buttucks belong to JPJ Sailor's, in other words, he is flatly refusing to surrender or concede to the "enemy's" demands.

Secondly, but least likely explanation, an ass is another word for a fool, an idiot, a stupid person etc. Hence the phrase "gonna kiss the donkey" could mean that somebody will have to kiss the foolish/idiot/imbecile person very soon.

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  • it seemed like a good idea at the time :) I remember there being quite a fuss. Although the post has attracted over 4,000 views ... so somebody wants to know what it means.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 1, 2015 at 5:53
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Also notice, it's an asian guy saying the line. "Kissing the donkey" probably just means they've made an ass of themselves & are about to own that mistake.

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    In what way does "Asian" change the speaker's meaning? Does it mean he doesn't know English well, or that he is trying to save face?
    – Theresa
    Oct 12, 2014 at 0:04

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