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Is it decent to the word "buttocks" in writings? Is there a better decent word to mean the same? Is Butt is considered more decent and acceptable than "buttocks"?

I want a word to mean the same thing, but it should decent enough and commonly used.

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It depends on the context. Is this a medical context? (The patient had a puncture wound in his buttocks). Or more of a proverbial usage of the word? (For example, She needs a good kick in the buttocks; or, This new insurance form is a pain in the buttocks to fill out; or, That movie was so funny, I was laughing by buttocks off.) Or something you might say to a young child? (Make sure you wipe your buttocks when you are finished). The words tail, butt, hiney, bum, posterior, and derrière, can all function as euphemisms, but I wouldn't say those are all interchangeable. –  J.R. Feb 14 at 20:43
    
@J.R. Yes, it's related to medical context. "He touches his buttocks with his hand and looks at his hand - there's a small dot of blood." I didn't mean bleeding ass here. Doctor injected medicine in his buttocks. :) –  T2E Feb 14 at 20:51
    
From an exercise perspective, you might use glutes, as in: These exercises really work the upper legs and the glutes. –  J.R. Feb 15 at 4:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Buttocks is the preferred term in formal writing: politer and more formal than butt (AmE) and bum (BrE), which are colloquial, and arse (BrE) or ass (AmE), which are vulgar.

Other terms, such as posterior or fundament (formal), bottom (ambiguous in some contexts), backside (informal) and a host of more or less infantine colloquialisms (hiney, keister, booty, etc.) are too nakedly euphemistic to be acceptable in straightforward formal writing.


Readers are invited to expand this list.

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Nice. 'Bottom' seems least vulgar for me. Do you think if I use bottom instead of buttocks in the following sentence, it will be ambiguous? "He touches his buttocks with his hand and looks at his hand - there's a small dot of blood." For me it seems okay and no ambiguous here. I just imagined, what others would interpret this sentence without context. I couldn't stop laughing. :D Don't laugh. I didn't mean bleeding ass here. Doctor injected medicine in his buttocks. :) –  T2E Feb 14 at 20:02
    
@T2E Bottom is marginal. It strikes my ear as childish, and in some contexts it is a euphemistic term for a woman's genitals. And I always recall Boswell's story about Dr. Johnson: "Talking of a very respectable authour, he told us a curious circumstance in his life, which was, that he had married a printer's devil. REYNOLDS. 'A printer's devil, Sir! Why, I thought a printer's devil was a creature with a black face and in rags.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I suppose, he had her face washed, and put clean clothes on her. (Then looking very serious, and very earnest.) ... (continue) –  StoneyB Feb 14 at 20:11
    
And she did not disgrace him; the woman had a bottom of good sense.' The word bottom thus introduced, was so ludicrous when contrasted with his gravity, that most of us could not forbear tittering and laughing; though I recollect that the Bishop of Killaloe kept his countenance with perfect steadiness, while Miss Hannah More slyly hid her face behind a lady's back who sat on the same settee with her. ... (continue) –  StoneyB Feb 14 at 20:11
    
His pride could not bear that any expression of his should excite ridicule, when he did not intend it; he therefore resolved to assume and exercise despotick power, glanced sternly around, and called out in a strong tone, 'Where's the merriment?' Then collecting himself, and looking aweful, to make us feel how he could impose restraint, and as it were searching his mind for a still more ludicrous word, he slowly pronounced, 'I say the WOMAN was FUNDAMENTALLY sensible;' as if he had said, hear this now, and laugh if you dare. We all sat composed as at a funeral." –  StoneyB Feb 14 at 20:12
    
@T2E In that case, I might argue for “(left | right) buttock” (specified, formal, singular). –  Tyler James Young Feb 14 at 20:14

The comments above make it clear it's in a medical interaction (doctor and patient), so the key questions is this:

Who's speaking?

  • A doctor or other medical professional will most often say "buttocks." I think it's the most common clinical term.
  • A patient or layperson would generally say "butt." Most non-prpofessionals only say "buttocks" if they are trying to deliberately choose clinical (medical) terminology.

Age is a factor here - younger Americans use "ass" in pretty mixed company, and older folk might tend to say "rump" or "rear," but the best guess for an average American who is trying to avoid any vulgarity is pretty surely "butt."

See the Google ngram: enter image description here

NGrams are based on written frequency, not verbal, but they're often pretty similar, and they make it pretty clear that the most common terms are "butt" and "ass."

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Buttocks is also used in medical situations because it gives you the opportunity to specify "left" or "right", which none of the singular words (rump, rear, butt, etc) will let you do without adding more words ("left side of my rump"). –  Abby T. Miller Feb 14 at 22:05
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Butt and ass are American English in particular. In England and the rest of the UK, they would translate into bum dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/bum_1?q=bum and arse dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/…. –  Tristan Feb 14 at 22:32
    
Another thing to note with this ngram is that the top two words are often used with very different senses. (Cigarette butt, make an ass of oneself.) So this doesn't tell us that "butt" and "ass" are the most common terms for "buttocks". –  LarsH Feb 15 at 3:18
    
@larsh, good point! My assessment came before I saw it, so I still think it's likely right, but that does cloud how much the ngram supports it. –  Jaydles Feb 15 at 3:20
    
Google's most carefully curated set of data is 1800 - 2000. You'll often notice large changes at the year 2000 (as in this graph) if you set the end of the range to 2008, but these changes might not actually be significant. –  snailplane Feb 16 at 2:49

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