Etymology of "I take names...

I didn’t want to use naughty words in the title for fear of someone getting spanked at work for it. Anyway, my question is what is the origin of the phrase “tak[ing] names and kick[ing] ass”? When was it first used? Why has it caught on so quickly?

I don’t know about “quickly” as I can recall hearing the phrase (which is actually “Kicking ass and taking names”, not the other way 'round) at least as far back as the mid-ish '80s or thereabouts. This WordReference forums thread has a plausible-sounding theory.

Really? Mid-80s? I must be living under a rock. It’s odd that I haven’t heard it before this year if it really is a Naval term, since I’m a Navy brat myself. Strange how things like that work out.

FWIW, I first heard it in the movie Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981)

Yeah, I mean, you know that a meme is completely washed-up when a show like ‘Dawson’s creek’ is doing variations:

“But I’ll be back. And I promise you, it’s not going to be pretty. Asses will be kicked. Names will be taken. Until then, bye-bye”

(Spoken by the now-Mrs Tom Cruise, penultimate episode, May of 2003.)

I don’t know the answer but I want to thank you for using “penultimate” correctly. No taking names or kicking asses will be required.

Why thank you. :slight_smile: I haven’t really noticed that many people misusing it myself. (Not that I notice that many people using the word at all.)

Not yet, but my prediction stands that it will be the next “begs the question”, or will begin getting used as an intensified “ultimate”. Stephen Colbert used it and I’m not sure if he meant it the way he used it or not.

I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I just can’t wrap my brain this statement. (In fact, trying almost reduced me to giggles, but then again it’s Friday and it’s been a looooong week.)

I mean, of *course * he meant it the way he used it; whether or not he used it correctly is up for debate. I think. Or not.

Huh? Please help my tired, work-addled brain.

Heard in the Army ca. 1967 though not all that common. Like most sayings in the military, it probably can be traced back to at least the Civil War. One can readily imagine the hieroglyphic dating back to the union of the two kingdoms.

Well, that’s because you’re a descriptionist I think. :wink:

To a descriptionist, ‘how you use’ a phrase is always the same way as how you meant to use it. To a prescriptionist, it’s what the words you put together happen to mean, which might have nothing to do with what you intended to say. :slight_smile:

I don’t know about his prescriptionist/descriptionist explanation, but I do know basically what he meant by the sentence you here refer to. You can read it as “I don’t know whether Colbert meant what he actually said or not.” I.e., he actually said next to last, but he may have meant last.


When did the expression “taking names” come into use? We used it in elementary school in the early 1950’s and I didn’t hear it again for fifty years.

Just today, I saw an AP article referring to “Order of the Phoenix” as the penultimate Harry Potter movie.

It’s the antepenultimate movie!