Saturday, April 21, 2007

Importing Piss?

What does the Thursday Night Martini Gang talk about when it’s gathered round the table at Mo Mong. The same thing we’ve been talking about for 23 years: advertising. This past week’s conversation didn’t start there, though.

It began with Bill Large, Rob Schoenbeck and me discussing the origin of the word ‘pissed,’ meaning ‘drunk.’ (First-timers are frequently amazed where these things start – and end – so wait for the end of this post, eh?)

We floated our ideas about the origin of this slang and Rob volunteered to look it up when he got home. He reported an unusual lack of success yesterday:

“After searching through To Coin a Phrase, Dictionary of English Colloquial Idioms, Guinness Book of Curious Phrases and the Oxford English Dictionary plus a cursory search of the web. I am ‘pissed off’ in being unable to find the origin of the term.”

Unbelievably, it's true as Rob says: the term ‘pissed’ for ‘drunk’ doesn’t show up in the OED – at least not in my old edition. However, there's hope in a varied library.

Eric Partridge, renowned pursuer of slang, wrote A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. (My copy is middle-aged: 1961.) Partridge notes that ‘pissed’ or ‘pissed-up’ means very drunk, a “low term,” possibly military, from the 20th Century. Please do share Partridge’s wonderful phrase, “so drunk he opened his shirt collar to piss” with your friends.

It's barely conceivable that ‘pissed’ comes from drinking too much at Piss-Pot Hall, “A tavern at Clopton, near Hackney, built by a potter chiefly out of the profits of chamber-pots...” Partridge says Piss-Pot Hall comes from around 1710-1830...which seems pretty distant from its 20th Century use.

Most likely, ‘pissed’ meaning drunk came into usage the UK - first - from Australian soldiers in World War 1. Researching ‘piss,’ it seems to be a fairly historic and pretty well-known Australian slang term for a bad brewski – and that’s how I discovered Piss Beer.

Piss is the brand name of a contract-brewed beer, produced by Geelong Brewing of Victoria, Australia, for the Pi55 Beer Company P/L of Melbourne. It was introduced in 1998 at the Great Britain Hotel in Richmond (the one in Oz, dear).

Now you’ll find this amazing: public support has been strong and the business has expanded and exported since the beer was introduced, but major distributors continue to avoid the brand, “perhaps due to ‘piss’ being slightly vulgar and also a derogatory Australian slang word for poor-quality alcoholic beverages.”

Regard the Piss Beer website: Now you can enjoy the great taste of Piss and Piss Weak regardless of where you live. The Piss Pak was developed in response to the massive demand we have received both in Australia and overseas for these distinctive brands, and we now offer delivery to your door anywhere in the world.

See? This is about advertising. Import Piss! Everyone should order a Piss NOW. Read “The Unabridged History of Piss” on the company’s site and see if you don’t agree.

I wonder if they’ll ship to Houston. Bill has got this neat beer-bottle-opener-on-a-ring that’d work a treat on Piss bottles. (Uh, that didn’t sound right, did it?)

Thanks to the Martini Gang for the entertainment, and apologies to Horse Piss Beer for ignoring domestic in favor of foreign brews – but it’s a potential import right? And we all know that market is hot.


Nash Baker said...

I believe your condition must have been steamed! One step above pissed on the scale of drunkenness and one below battered. Unless of couse you achieved the distinction... shelled.
Sorry I missed the enlightenment. I'll try to make it next Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Yes, truly, down here we have the motherload of piss related expressions. I am writing from New Zealand, of course. Just a couple:

On the piss - out drinking
Pissed - drunk
In the piss - having difficulties
Pisser - bathroom
Being pissed on - it is raining
Pissing off - exiting
Pissing - raining
Being pissed at - angered
It's a piss up - done wrong
Piss poor - not so good
Oh piss! - damnation
Piss - beer
Piss ant - worthless
Bad piss - bad beer
Pissing in the wind - same as US

...and it goes on. The amusing thing is to attempt to combine as many as possible: "It was pissing, and we were on the piss, then Gerry had to go to the pisser, while the rest of us were drinking piss, but there was a piss up at the bar, which had only a piss ant kind of bad piss, so we got pissed up, but all you could do was piss into the wind, so we pissed off but got pissed on because, as I said, it was pissing, and we were now pissed off, which was a piss poor way to end an evening!

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Dear Kiwi: This nation (and I) thank you for making it all so clear. Really.

A genuine help since Barbara and I went on the piss yesterday afternoon. Beautiful day, and we had some great piss: a couple pints each of Real Ale's Coffee Porter, then a terrific Hefe Weizen by Franzichkaner - a pint of two of that. I was only mildly pissed when we got home. That's what happens when I blog Have a great week down there.