On the instant of his departure, which I noted, a bright star or vapour leaped forth above his head (as though he had heaved up his sword), and broke all about in fire. The cocks crowed midnight through the valley, and I sat me down by the mill-wheel, chewing spearmint (though that's an herb of Venus), and calling myself all the asses' heads in the world! 'Twas plain enough now!'

This is from "A DOCTOR'S MEDICINE" by Kipling. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kipling/rudyard/rewards/index.html

I am glad if someone kindly teach me the meaning below
"calling myself all the asses heads in the world" strong text

1 Answer 1


Historically, "asses' head" is a metaphor for "slow-witted" or "stupid". "All the X in the world" is simply a colorful way to exemplify whatever X is, and essentially means "extremely".

Put it together, and Kipling's Mr. Culpeper is saying that he felt extremely stupid for not realizing the answer sooner.

Neither of these expressions is, I think, in common use today. Instead we might say something like:

I felt like the biggest idiot in the world

By the way (in case it's not clear) "ass" means "donkey". Again, historically, the ass was used as a metaphor for stupidity or foolishness. Today calling someone an "ass" more likely means they are rude and/or annoying (at least in AmE).

  • 2
    Indeed, the OED attests "ass" meaning "fool" since the 16th century (still found: en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ass ) and "ass-head" from the same period (found in Shakespeare). These uses derive from "ass" meaning a donkey, although in the US if you called someone an ass they would probably assume it was a vulgar usage.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 7:37
  • 1
    Andrew, thank you so much for your kind and detailed answer! Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 22:57

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