How To Tell Your Ass From Your Elbow

Experts offer tips for something we assume you are dumb enough to need an article explaining

Photo: Juan Camilo Trujillo

You promise yourself this time it will be different. This time you will be able to distinguish between two parts that, though utterly unlike each other, cause you confusion every time.

Then you look at both of them. That terrible sense of bewilderment overcomes your brain once again.

But all is not lost.

For anyone who has ever tried to tell the difference between their ass and their elbow (or if you are a New Yorker, you tell the difference between your fuckin’ ass from your elbow) at a supermarket, rest room, doctor’s office or anywhere else, here are some tips from experts for making that difficult distinction.

Identify your knee

That may seem counterintuitive, but data tell a different story, said Dean Myers, a former high school biology teacher who is the chief academic officer at Assbow, where he explores the future of rump/joint identification.

“People who have a hard time comparing these two disparate features of the body require a fixed point of reference to keep them from getting confused,” he said in an email. His research found all of that takes an average of 41 seconds before each person can actually understand that when they bang their funny bone it is not their ass that feels the pain, or that putting their elbow in the toilet does not help them eliminate waste.

“The knee is kind of like an elbow for your lower body,” he says. “If you start with that in mind you have a better chance of getting the other parts right.”

Throw a ball or another small object

When you throw something, you are extending your ulnar collateral ligament, the triangular band in the middle of your elbow, explains Dr. Ken Gazette, author of “The Human Body For Fucking Idiots.”

“Do you feel any motion when you’re extending your arm to toss the ball? That’s coming from your elbow,” he explains, “not your ass. You fucking moron.”

Look for female ass/elbow-havers

B. H. Sarsmen, an assistant professor of human services and psychology at Bailey Clown College in Baraboo, WI, suggested observing women around you to see how they handle situations in which awareness of the ass/elbow dichotomy was a necessary skill.

“This may seem sexist, but men are total imbeciles,” Ms. Sarsmen wrote. “In my experience it’s amazing they don’t walk into walls most times. If you’re having trouble telling your ass from your elbow you are probably a man, so maybe just step back for a second (but watch where you’re going) and see what the women are doing.”

Use the rule of twos

“You have two elbows,” says Dr. Gazette, “but only one ass. I tell my particularly slow students — and they’re all fucking idiots, so you can imagine what kind of brain-dead mouth-breathers I’m talking about here — to check the numbers. There’s a little rhyme I give them: ‘If there’s on each side, I have elbow pride.” There is also a rhyme that goes, ‘If it’s there on my bottom then elbows it’s not ‘em,’ but that is way too complex for these fucking morons. Again, we’re talking about people who can’t tell their asses from their elbows. They’re not geniuses.”

Beware of confusion

Even the rule of twos can bog a person down in complexity. “One time a student stood up and said, ‘But what about my two butts,’ meaning, it turned out, that he was counting each cheek as an individual ass,” recalled Dr. Gazette. “You can’t hit these people in the head with a shovel, and putting tape on the specific body parts with the names of the parts on them is a temporary solution because eventually they are directed to a shower and they wash the tape off. Oh my God, how fucking dumb do you have to be to need instruction on telling your ass from your elbow? What kind of idiot are you? What else do I have to tell you, how to pick the fastest line in the supermarket?”

Remember: A lot of the ass/elbow-distinguishing game is mental

To some degree, not being able to tell your ass from your elbow is all in your head. Research has found that, on average, people don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground either, but there is something about making a specific comparison to their elbow that complicates things.

The psychology of ass/elbow-distinguishing has found that identifying the body parts becomes harder when you are under pressure to declare which is which. Professor Sara McAfee of Princeton University recommended taking a deep breath, clearing your thoughts, and counting to ten before trying again, assuming you are able to count that high. (Professor McAfee’s tip: Use your fingers.)

Dr. Gazette has agrees with those points, but offers an additional solution. “Try sitting down,” he said. “Unless you’re a full-blown shit-for-brains who doesn’t have the sense God gave a goose, the odds are you’re sitting on your ass. There, I solved that mystery for you, you empty-skulled fuckhead.”

Related: How to Pick the Fastest Line at the Supermarket