Half-Assed or Half-Fast?

When describing the sloppy or shoddy completion of a task, is the correct term ‘half-assed’ or ‘half-fast’? I’ve always thought it was the former, however SWMBO insists that it is the latter. In any event, what’s the origin?

Definitely the former.

“Half-fast”? :confused:

Tom and Ray have a running joke regarding one’s “vast experience” and the other’s “half-vast experience,” but that’s the closest I’ve ever heard to the posited formation.

Definitely “half-assed.”

And regarding origins, m-w.com comes to the rescue.

Main Entry: half-assed
Pronunciation: ‘haf-‘ast, ‘h[a’]f-’[a’]st
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1932
1 often vulgar : lacking significance, adequacy, or completeness
2 often vulgar : lacking intelligence, character, or effectiveness

  • half-assed adverb, often vulgar

Yeah, definitely half-assed.
Reminds me of a friend who used to say “6 and a half, a dozen” instead of “6 of 1, half a dozen of the other”. Had a lot of laughs with her over that one.

I’ve got a promo t-shirt from Compaq that says their computers are “Not Half-Fast”. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen the latter construct, and it was clearly wordplay.

Sign in a friend’s tavern:


I am not a fast bartender.
I am not a slow bartender.
I am a half-fast bartender.**

In the Rolling Stones song “It’s All Over Now”, there’s a line that could be heard either “spend all my money/playin’ her high fast game”, or “playin’ her half-assed game”. The second makes more sense, but is a bit racy for 1964. Anybody know the right lyrics?

I believe the lyric is “high-class game.”

D’oh! (if true) I guess I should take this to the “high-class or half-assed” thread.

American Slang by Robert Chapman says it dates from the late 1800s. According to him, it may be “a humorous mispronunciation of haphazard”.

Lighter: adj.,meaning contemptible, half-baked, stupid, etc. 1863, “there goes our half-assed Adjutant.”

As an adj. meaning "halfway, poorly, etc., he cites 1929-33, "If I plan to do something, I don’t see any reason to do it half ass.

I believe I read somewhere that the half-assed or half-ass comes from days when one would employ and ass or mule to do a certain amount of work. Poor work was satirically equivalent to the work done by half an ass. Why there isn’t a half-mule or half-horse, donkey or any other variation, I don’t know.

Ok, so this was a half-assed attempt at answering the question.

I digress.


I like that explanation, because “half-assed” has always bothered me. Does that mean that something done well is “whole assed”? How does being associated with half an ass (of whatever kind) make something bad?

When in doubt, the naughty version is real and the “clean” one is a silly euphemism.

Chapman may be the only source who thinks it could have come from a mispronounciation of haphazard.

Look at Lighter’s cite from 1863, “there goes our half-assed Adjutant,” and suggest where haphazard comes into play in the meaning of the word. Yes, I know that the adjective meant two different things in the mid/late 1800’s, but the phrase was already establised by 1863 and couldn’t have come from haphazard, IMHO.

Isn’t there a Homer Simpson quote with this?

Yes. See Ino’s reply above.