I love this. My two pull out quotes from the article:
An impolite vulgarism that has rudely elbowed its way into polite discourse without losing its air of impoliteness, asshole fills a gap.
“Every age,” Nunberg says, “creates a particular social offender that it makes a collective preoccupation—the cad in Anthony Trollope’s day, the phony that Holden Caulfield was fixated on in the postwar years—and the asshole is ours.”
I love this notion that as our vulgarities change, so do our sensibilities – that the asshole is actually a cultural trope, and not just a word. Note: this would make a GREAT birthday present.