1 of 2
1
BL: piss poor, pot to piss in
Posted: 31 December 2015 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6323
Joined  2007-01-03

Life in the 1500s resurfaces

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 December 2015 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

Thanks for that post, Dave. I learned piss poor in England, from WW2 veterans; it’s a nice alliterative phrase, as you point out.

A propos the uses of urine: the fermentation of urine generates ammonia. In ancient Rome, the public urinals were equipped with tubs; these were collected and emptied every night by the fullers of wool, who used the urine in their process.  Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, relates that the Emperor Vespasian (an extremely canny economist) imposed a tax on the collection of urine. When his son Titus remonstrated that this was undignified, the Emperor showed him a handful of money which had recently been paid by the fullers, with the now famous remark pecunia non olet — “money doesn’t smell”. Today, a public urinal in France is called a vespasiane; in Spanish-speaking countries, a vespasiana.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 December 2015 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  287
Joined  2007-02-15

Well, a case of receiving the piss instead of the usual.

@Lionello the town where I live, Haarlem, had a huge bleaching industry a few centuries ago, and many streets here are named for things to do with that industry. I’m just amazed to hear that this was big in ancient Rome as well, never thought it went back that far but yeah, another thing learned.

Vespasiane - as a French word - means nothing to me but maybe I didn’t live there long enough to pick it up. Or wasn’t such a big thing in Normandy where I was. They all just pissed on the local church’s walls afa I could make out.

But ‘piss poor’ has been part of this southern Scottish individual’s vocab for more years than I want to reveal. Happy New Year 2 all btw. There, ban me for textspeak!

[ Edited: 31 December 2015 06:30 PM by BlackGrey ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 December 2015 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3986
Joined  2007-02-26

There is an Australian expression “piss it in” meaning do it easily.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 December 2015 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3466
Joined  2007-01-31

Previous discussion from 2011.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 January 2016 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

Correction: Googling leads me to think that the French word for a public (men’s) urinal is vespasienne, rather than vespasiane. The Spanish word vespasiana doesn’t appear in the RAE, from which I suspect that it may be a regionalism: in South America, where I was raised (Chile, Argentina) it’s a common expression. In any event, I think these sidewalk pissoirs, which exposed men’s legs (and sometimes head and shoulders, too) to the view of passers-by, are mostly things of the past; though I recall using one on a Paris sidewalk, several decades ago.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 January 2016 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1510
Joined  2007-02-14

Another couple of data points:

A) My Diccionario de Mejicanismos does not include an entry for vespasiana or anything like it.

2) In Boston I first encountered the term pisser (pronounced /’pɪ sʌ/).  It was a term of approval.  Something that is pisser is good.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 January 2016 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  747
Joined  2013-10-14

It’s interesting that the idiomatic expressions, piss-poor and dirt-poor, have the commonality of excretion.

Dirt-poor, an earlier origin:

OED

1937 Time 26 Apr. 41/1 Nearly blind and dirt-poor, Inventor Dave Mallory (Karloff) devises a burglar alarm worked by electric eyes.

b]Dirt: Etymology:  By metathesis from Middle English drit, not known in Old English and probably < Old Norse drit neuter, excrement (modern Icelandic dritr (masculine), Norwegian dritt ); compare also Middle Dutch drete , Dutch dreet , Flemish drits , drets excrement: see drite v

Dirt-cheap: goes back even further, 1821

[ Edited: 01 January 2016 05:10 PM by Logophile ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 January 2016 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6323
Joined  2007-01-03

It’s interesting that the idiomatic expressions, piss-poor and dirt-poor, have the commonality of excretion.

While dirt may have an ultimate excretory origin, I would say that association had been lost by the time dirt-poor and dirt-cheap were coined.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 January 2016 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  747
Joined  2013-10-14
Dave Wilton - 01 January 2016 07:22 PM

It’s interesting that the idiomatic expressions, piss-poor and dirt-poor, have the commonality of excretion.

While dirt may have an ultimate excretory origin, I would say that association had been lost by the time dirt-poor and dirt-cheap were coined.

I agree, and I understand that piss is exclusively associated with urine, and that dirt evolved to a different meaning, but piss-poor, piss-ugly, piss-off etc. are also not associated with urination.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 January 2016 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6323
Joined  2007-01-03

But piss primarily means urine, while dirt has long lost most association with feces, it’s primary meaning being that of soil or earth. That had to be on the minds of those who coined the terms and those who first hear them. When you first hear piss poor, urine jumps out in a way that feces doesn’t for dirt poor.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 January 2016 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3466
Joined  2007-01-31

I find that, in general, feces doesn’t jump out the way urine does.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 January 2016 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

Whereas the piss
Jumps out with a hiss,
The feces will drop
with merely a plop.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 January 2016 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  747
Joined  2013-10-14
Dave Wilton - 02 January 2016 05:38 AM

But piss primarily means urine, while dirt has long lost most association with feces, it’s primary meaning being that of soil or earth. That had to be on the minds of those who coined the terms and those who first hear them. When you first hear piss poor, urine jumps out in a way that feces doesn’t for dirt poor.

I see what you mean, thanks.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 January 2016 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1585
Joined  2007-03-21
OP Tipping - 31 December 2015 06:28 PM

There is an Australian expression “piss it in” meaning do it easily.

OED also has

intr. orig. Austral. to piss in (a person’s) pocket: to flatter or (seek to) ingratiate oneself with (a person).

Earliest cite 1967. Not an intensifier but a phrasal verb.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 January 2016 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1585
Joined  2007-03-21
lionello - 31 December 2015 09:18 AM

Today, a public urinal in France is called a vespasiane; in Spanish-speaking countries, a vespasiana.

I’ve always called it a “pissoir” and, indeed, the OED has

A public urinal, esp. one enclosed only by a screen or wall.

1919 H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. 127 The French pissoir..is still regarded as indecent in America, and is seldom used in England, but it has gone into most of the Continental languages.

There’s one of these beasts outside of every major train station in Germany. One needs to give it a wide berth for the odor.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
‹‹ fly (adj)      Tommy ››