This word or its literal translation is found in colloquial speech in a number of cultures (in both English and other languages). This is because it describes an organ of elimination that is considered a taboo region (since it belongs to the intimate parts) of the body in many societies.
The English word ass (meaning donkey, a cognate of its zoological name Equus asinus) may also be used as a term of contempt, referring to a silly or stupid person. In North America, the words arse and ass have become synonymous; however, in the rest of the English-speaking world, ass still only refers to the donkey, rather than the arse (buttocks). It is worth noting that speakers of some varieties of English “drop their Rs” before consonants, leading to a pronunciation of arse that is quite similar to ass.
Until the early 1990s, the word was considered one of a number of words that could not be uttered on commercial television in the United States. Comedian Andrew Dice Clay caused a major shock when he uttered the word during a televised awards show in the 1980s. However, there were PG-13 and R rated films in the 1980s that featured use of the word, such as "The Terminator" (1984) and the PG-13 "National Lampoon Christmas Vacation" (1989) and "Back to The Future II" (1989). By 1994, however, the word was considered less vulgar and was featured in dialog on the long-running television series NYPD Blue, though it has yet to become anything close to commonplace on network TV. It is important to note that while the word arse has found a place on broadcast television, arsehole is not used, probably due to its more vulgar connotation. In some broadcast edits (such as the syndication airings of South Park), the word is partially bleeped out—ironically, as "arseh---", with the profane half of the word intact.
In February 2004, American media reported that during a rally of supporters, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Bush "an asshole" for believing his aides in supporting a coup against Chavez in 2002. . The following year, in September, Nightline host Ted Koppel said to Chavez on national television, "I'm going to perhaps shock you a little, but these are your words. You called President Bush an asshole," to which Chavez replied, "I've said various things about him. I don't know if I actually used that word.
In 1972, Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers recorded his song "Pablo Picasso," which includes the immortal line "Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole." The song was not released until 1976, after the break-up of the original Modern Lovers. In 1976, Chinga Chavin released the single "Asshole from El Paso" from his album Country Porn. Chavin's song was a parody of Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." In 1993, actor Denis Leary enjoyed some success with a comedic song called "Asshole", which opened his stage play No Cure for Cancer and was featured in a music video. It topped the Triple J Hottest 100, 1993 in Australia and subsequently reached #2 on the charts in that country in 1994. Alternative rock artist Beck has written and recorded a song called "Asshole", one of his most acclaimed compositions. The British ska-punk band Snuff also have a song named "Arsehole", while Canadian comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie have had a song called "The Asshole Song" in their repertoire since the late 1980s. In 2004, the song "Asshole" by the band Jim's Big Ego was used as the soundtrack to a popular Internet filmstrip about the Bush administration. Gene Simmons of rock band Kiss released his solo album under the name Asshole which also featured a song of the same name. August Campbell & The Spur Of The Moment Band wrote "The Asshole Song", sung about a person who purportedly cut him off while driving his car, prominently features the word as well (i.e. "Were you born an asshole, or did you work at it your whole life?").
The insult assclown is used in a similar fashion, although it is not as common. Assclown has become well known among fans of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) due to wrestler Chris Jericho using it during his promos, especially his “Highlight Reel”. The term was also used in the film Office Space to describe singer-songwriter Michael Bolton. “Assclown” is also used by radio personality Todd Schnitt.
Asstard is another rarer variant upon the ass- theme. It is possibly a portmanteau of asshole and retard and has almost the same meaning as asshole, but with a greater implied connotation of stupidity. An identically spelled version of the same word is a contraction of asshole and bastard, with a commensurately more abusive meaning.
asspit is a descriptive noun following this construction, used to describe places that are run-down or dirty, as in: “This house is an asspit.” It has a generally pejorative connotation.
ass-end or asshole can also be used to describe a location that is extremely remote, decrepit or seen to be without value - for example " (placename) is the asshole of the world"