It’s official. The Oxford English Dictionary has recently added the zesty neologism “Masshole” to its long and storied list of words.
I don’t believe it’s on track for the published tome, but it will be on oed.com.
I have a two-volume – which is to say abridged – old version of the OED, probably from the 1980’s). I haven’t looked at it in years, yet when I did my pre-reno house purge, I hung on to it. Not so the mega American Heritage Dictionary I got as a Christmas gift from Genuity’s advertising firm back in the day. That went out with the trash, but – as I knew they would – someone rescued it.
I used to love browsing through a dictionary. But that was then and this is now. And now we have the OED, gifting us with the charming portmanteau Masshole.
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈmashəul/, U.S. /ˈmæsˌhoʊl/
OKay. Am I the only one who looks at those pronunciation guides and can’t make heads or tails out of them? Fortunately, there’s generally someone out there who’s done a handy-dandy YouTube guide to pronunciation. There are several for Masshole which, not surprisingly, is pronounced exactly like it looks, which isn’t mæsˌhoʊl - mays-howl? – let alone mashəul – mas-herrrl?
Etymology: Blend of the name of the U.S. state of Massachusetts and asshole n. at ass n.2 Compound.
U.S. coarse slang. A term of contempt for: a native or inhabitant of the state of Massachusetts. (Source: OED)
Part of getting a juicy little nickname like this is being blessed – ahem – with a state with a first syllable that contains the word “ass”. If we were called, say, Winthrop, no one would bother with Win-holes.
But some state names just lend themselves to this type of word-play. Californicate, anyone?
So, we’re stuck with it.
And, admittedly, we are a state that people seem to like to hate for some reason.
Personally, I believe – to borrow the saying from Patriots’ fans, via The Interview (which, it goes without saying, I didn’t see) – that they hate us ‘cause they ain’t us.
After all, by just about any measure you can think of – health, wealth, educational achievement, crime rate – Massachusetts gets excellent ratings. And despite our reputation as terrible drivers, well, according to CarInsuranceComparison.com, we place dead last in fatalities per miles driven, and in the lower half for failure to obey, speeding, and careless driving. The only driving stat we’re high in is drunk driving (7th). So there!
Plus we are endowed with natural (albeit seldom very dramatic) beauty, charm, and history. McIntosh apples. Fried clams. Polar Orange Dry soda. So there again!
Perhaps all our endowments make us come off as smug and arrogant. Know-it-alls. Jerks. But, gee, it’s hard not to ask yourself the question who wouldn’t want to be one of us?
But there we are, Massholes to the world and to the Oxford English Dictionary.
All this got me to wondering whether Massachusetts is actually the most disliked state.
The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Not even close. That honor goes to New Jersey, which has a net favorability factor (favorable opinion minus unfavorable opinion) of negative 10 – the only state to go negative.
This, at least, is according to YouGov.
Not that we’re covered with favorability. We’re in the bottom ten, tied with Michigan for 42nd, running ahead of California, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama and, of course, bottom-scraping New Jersey.
Why New Jersey? How can the Garden State be perceived as less favorable than Mississippi?
The top 10 makes sense, and I can certainly see why “our” Vermont and “our” Maine would rate highly. But why would people favor New Hampshire and Rhode Island over Connecticut (ranked 33) and the Masshole capital of the world?
Given that, like Massachusetts, Connecticut tends to rate pretty highly on most factors, it must get back to their jealousy and/or our arrogance. They hate us because they ain’t us. And why, pray tell, is Illinois – Land of Lincoln, land of half of my heritage – dragging along in the bottom, just a smidge above Alabama.
And just who did they ask that Texas comes up with such a high net favorability score. (+31). Not me!
While I do draw some comfort that at least we’re not as ill-regarded as New Jersey (or Illinois), I guess our lack of favorability is one reason why the OED embraced Masshole.
So, say it loud, say it proud. I’m a Masshole.
I saw a guy walking down Charles Street the other day wearing an “I’m a Masshole” tee shirt. Should have asked him where he got it.*
*Sullly’s Brand, apparently. And if ever there’s a Massachusetts name, Sully would be it…