Half of Something is Better Than Nothing

On June 21, 2015 · 1 Comments

Would Twelve Mile Circle stoop so low as to devote an entire article to a bad pun? Well yes, that’s been known to happen.

For the benefit of the non-native English speakers in the audience, when something is said to be half-assed it implies that the effort used to produce it was insufficient, ineffectual, incompetent, lazy, low quality or other words and phrases to that effect. An example might be, "he did such a half-assed job on the roof and that it leaks every time it rains." I wouldn’t consider the term vulgar necessarily although it might qualify as mildly crass. I probably wouldn’t use it in a casual conversation with my mother so maybe that could serve as a guidepost. Those in the 12MC audience with delicate sensibilities might want to skip today’s article.

My trip to Ireland was decidedly NOT half-assed
although I took a photo of half an ass

Nobody really knew where the term originated although linguists proposed various theories, some more half-assed than others:

  • A tawdry version of half-hearted, except using a different body part.
  • An intentional mispronunciation of haphazard
  • A tool called an adz used in woodworking; i.e., using an adz on only the front part of a piece would leave it half completed, or half-adzed
  • Half asked, as in you only did half of what I asked
  • Donkeys are often used in pairs; being half-assed would denote a deficiency

The earliest documented usage of half-assed in print seemed to date to 1863 according to several sources, found in the record of a general court marshal held in the United States.

Specification 1st — In this that he, the said Captain John H Behan, Company F, 16th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, while on duty in camp on or about the 12th day of December 1862 did use abusive and grossly insulting language to Joseph B Hamilton, 2d Lieutenant… in words as follows to wit: "There goes our half-assed Adjutant…"

I went ahead and created my own fake etymology as it applied to geography. A one-horse town would be one that’s considered small and unimportant. With that in mind I examined another member of the genus Equus, specifically Equus africanus asinus, the donkey (or ass). Thus, wouldn’t it make sense that a half-assed town would be only half as significant as a one-horse town? I don’t have any evidence to corroborate this usage because I made it up. It’s false. Also the theory wouldn’t work in the United Kingdom and various other places where it’s half-arsed instead.

Half Assini, Ghana

Half Assini Senior High School

The proceeding several paragraphs were an extremely long and tedious lead-in designed simply to provide an excuse to talk about a town I discovered on a map of Ghana named Half Assini (map). It was located on the Gulf of Guinea on a little jut of land at the far southwestern side of the nation, only five kilometres from Côte d’Ivoire.

According to the Half Assini Development Association,

Half Assini is the district capital for the Jomoro district, a district in the Western Region of Ghana (Jomoro means "fresh fish" in the local dialect). Half Assini’s real name is "Ewianeh" and is supposed to mean "the end of Nzema". It has a population between 5000 and 10,000. The main occupation of the people is farming and fishing.

The Nzema people inhabit southwestern Ghana and southeastern Côte d’Ivoire. I didn’t know what "the end of Nzema" represented although I speculated that perhaps it marked the end of a territorial border. In other words, maybe Ewianeh / Half Assini was the last town before leaving the Nzema area?

Half Assini was noted for two minor historical events. First, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana received part of his education there. It was a British colony at the time — the Gold Coast — and his father was working there as a goldsmith and he was Nzema. Kwame Nkrumah became a student-teacher in Half Assini as a teenager. Educators noticed his talents and arranged for him to continue his education, which eventually led him to the United States and the United Kingdom. Later he fought for Ghanaian independence, served time in prison for leading the struggle and ultimately prevailed in 1960. He was overthrown by a military coup d’etat while on an overseas trip in 1966 and lived the remainder of his life in exile.

The second historical footnote happened in 1913 when the Welsh ship S.S Bakana sailed from Liverpool and wrecked off the coast of Half Assini. Captain Richard Williams drowned during the shipwreck and his body washed ashore several days later. As was custom, those who found Captain Williams buried him in the bush nearby. However the town grew as the years passed and the formerly tranquil gravesite stood in the way of street construction. Developers built around Captain Williams’ tomb, now protected by a wrought-iron fence in the middle of the street. In death he’s become somewhat of a local celebrity of sorts (that page also shows a photo of the sunken ship and the tomb). There’s even a Captain Williams Hotel although authorities aren’t sure why they found four people there recently with two human heads. They were arrested.

The name Half Assini would imply the existence of a full Assini nearby. Alas, that didn’t seem to be the case. We may never know how Half Assini got its curious name.

On June 21, 2015 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Half of Something is Better Than Nothing”

  1. David Overton says:

    The “other half” of Assini seems to be the town of Assinie or Assinie-Mafia on the Côte d’Ivoire side of the border. See https://sites.google.com/site/ghanaplacenames/database/western/half-assini.

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