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PIssing in the wind
Posted: 01 April 2017 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I refer you to this quote from the film The Revenant.
“Three hundred bucks goes a long way toward retirement. Go down to Texas, find me a decent piece of land, and start pissing in the wind. Get me the hell out of this godforsaken place.”

Now, the only meaning I’ve ever known for “pissing in the wind” is “striving futilely”. Usually (but not always) it’s “pissing into the wind”.

So what the heck is The Revenant talking about? He’s talking about finally settling down and getting out of the unpleasant trapping game. Is there some archaic meaning of the phrase that I don’t know about?

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Posted: 01 April 2017 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Means ‘wasting time’ according to the Cassell Dictionary of Slang.

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Posted: 01 April 2017 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s in the OED. Pissing against/into the wind is the older form:

1642 G. Torriano Sel. Ital. Prov. 19 He who pisseth against the wind, wetteth his shirt.

The in the wind form has an earliest citation of 1970, so would seem to be an anachronism for The Revenant, which is set in 1823.

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Posted: 01 April 2017 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Dave, I think you’re missing OPT’s point, which is not really about the date or the preposition but the meaning.  The standard meaning is not something one would desire to do.  I think it’s most likely a scriptwriter’s misunderstanding of the phrase, equating it to freedom, perhaps by confusion with peeeing outdoors. (I know a fair number of men who consider the freedom to pee outdoors an essential aspect of liberty.)

I’m reminded of the Firesign Theater song:

Back from the shadows again!
Out where an Injun’s your friend!
Where the vegetables are green,
and you can pee right in the stream!
(spoken: And that’s important!)
Yes, we’re back from the shadows again!

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Posted: 01 April 2017 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dr. Techie - 01 April 2017 02:21 PM

Dave, I think you’re missing OPT’s point, which is not really about the date or the preposition but the meaning.  The standard meaning is not something one would desire to do.

Quite.

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Posted: 02 April 2017 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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OP Tipping - 01 April 2017 07:44 AM

I refer you to this quote from the film The Revenant.
“Three hundred bucks goes a long way toward retirement. Go down to Texas, find me a decent piece of land, and start pissing in the wind. Get me the hell out of this godforsaken place.”

First up, I’ve not (yet) seen The Revenant so apologies for any storyboard errors… but where was the ‘godforsaken place’ the quotee was in when he/she said this? Was he/she so desperate to get away from where he/she now was that even Texas might seem like a good plan?

I mean, was he/she being ironic?

ps what the hell is the current pronoun of choice for an indeterminate gender?

[ Edited: 02 April 2017 02:13 AM by BlackGrey ]
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Posted: 02 April 2017 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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BlackGrey - 02 April 2017 02:11 AM

ps what the hell is the current pronoun of choice for an indeterminate gender?

They is on a clear path to victory in the genderless pronoun war.

[ Edited: 02 April 2017 04:17 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 April 2017 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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A writer who chooses, for the title of his novel, an obscure word which will send most people rummaging for a dictionary, might be someone with lurking feelings of inferiority, who feels he has to establish a position of superiority vis-a-vis his readers. In that case, he might also do this by (inter alia) using common phrases in uncommon (and not necessarily meaningful) ways, to keep his readers guessing, which he’s certainly succeeded in doing in this case.  Of course, the phrase may not be in the original book --- but my guess would be, it is.

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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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lionello - 02 April 2017 04:39 AM

A writer who chooses, for the title of his novel, an obscure word which will send most people rummaging for a dictionary, might be someone with lurking feelings of inferiority, who feels he has to establish a position of superiority vis-a-vis his readers.

It’s not that obscure. It’s well known to legions of Dungeons and Dragons players and it has currency in fantasy/sf circles.

The OED assigns it a frequency band of 4 (out of 8, with 8 being the most common words):

Band 4 contains words which occur between 0.1 and 1.0 times per million words in typical modern English usage. Such words are marked by much greater specificity and a wider range of register, regionality, and subject domain than those found in bands 8-5. However, most words remain recognizable to English-speakers, and are likely be used unproblematically in fiction or journalism. Examples include overhang, life support, rewrite, nutshell, candlestick, rodeo, embouchure, insectivore (nouns), astrological, egregious, insolent, Jungian, combative, bipartisan, cocksure, methylated (adjectives), intern, sequester, galvanize, cull, plop, honk, skyrocket, subpoena, pee, decelerate, befuddle, umpire (verbs), productively, methodically, lazily, pleasurably, surreptitiously, unproblematically, electrostatically, al dente, satirically (adverbs).

About 11% of all non-obsolete OED entries are in Band 4.

[ Edited: 02 April 2017 05:15 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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"Three hundred bucks goes a long way toward retirement. Go down to Texas, find me a decent piece of land, and start pissing in the wind ...

Speaking of anachronisms, I don’t believe bucks meant dollars in American English in 1823.
The writer must have had fun with that sentence.

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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes, it’s a bit of an anachronism. It doesn’t appear until some twenty-five years later. Buckskin, meaning a dollar, however, was in use by 1824, so it’s not that far off.

Interestingly though, the first citation of revenant in the OED is from 1823.

[ Edited: 02 April 2017 05:20 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Well, it’s attested from the 1850s, so it’s not unlikely that it was in spoken use a few decades earlier.

Edit: Ha, Dave’s comment and mine are perfect illustrations of the different conclusions that can be drawn from the same facts!

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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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languagehat - 02 April 2017 05:18 AM

Edit: Ha, Dave’s comment and mine are perfect illustrations of the different conclusions that can be drawn from the same facts!

I realized the OED entry was old as soon as I hit the submit button. I looked at other sources and I’ve since updated it. LH’s post and my update crossed in the “mail.”

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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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lionello - 02 April 2017 04:39 AM

A writer who chooses, for the title of his novel, an obscure word which will send most people rummaging for a dictionary, might be someone with lurking feelings of inferiority, who feels he has to establish a position of superiority vis-a-vis his readers.

Oddly, another novel with the same title was written in 1979. I doubt if I’d have known this particular obscure fact had I not had a connexion with the author of the book, and my reaction at the time to the title was ‘what on earth is that’? So I knew what it meant when this one came along, but that was pure chance, as I can’t recall hearing it elsewhere.

(The author of the earlier book apparently believed that they would be able to live as a writer off the proceeds, and was disappointed to have to keep their day job, because the book sold a few copies to fans of the genre, and that was pretty much it. Not an unusual story amongst writers, but seeing its namesake everywhere must be a bit galling now. I can’t say anything about the lurking feelings of inferiority, though.)

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Posted: 02 April 2017 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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BlackGrey - 02 April 2017 02:11 AM

OP Tipping - 01 April 2017 07:44 AM
I refer you to this quote from the film The Revenant.
“Three hundred bucks goes a long way toward retirement. Go down to Texas, find me a decent piece of land, and start pissing in the wind. Get me the hell out of this godforsaken place.”

First up, I’ve not (yet) seen The Revenant so apologies for any storyboard errors… but where was the ‘godforsaken place’ the quotee was in when he/she said this? Was he/she so desperate to get away from where he/she now was that even Texas might seem like a good plan?

I mean, was he/she being ironic?

ps what the hell is the current pronoun of choice for an indeterminate gender?

He did not sound like he was being ironic. He was looking forward to getting out of there (somewhere in what is now the Dakotas), saying goodbye to the constant peril and discomfort of a trapper’s life. He was keen to live the easy life as a landed retiree in northern Mexico.

“Pissing in the wind” seemed an odd turn of phrase here, is all. Under my understanding of the phrase, it is akin to saying “Can’t wait to settle down in the country and commence a frustrating Sisyphean ordeal. “

Edit:typo

[ Edited: 02 April 2017 03:25 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 02 April 2017 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Band 4 puts “Revenant” in the same frequency range as words like “methodically”, and “insolent”, which I’ve known since early childhood. Who am I, to argue with the OED.  Actually, of all the Band 4 examples quoted by Dave from the OED, only embouchure was unfamiliar. But I’ve never, ever encountered “revenant” a single time, in more than 80 years of heavy reading. I suppose I’m way out of step with modern times, never having played “Dungeons and Dragons”, or any wind instrument other than a kazoo --- and I gave up on F&SF in despair, a few years after the publication of “New Maps of Hell”. I’m sorry I stuck my nose into a language landscape very different from mine.

Retreats, thoroughly cowed, into a dark corner, caressing his cherished, much-thumbed copy of Now We Are Six. 

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