Piss

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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Piss

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Feb 08, 1999 12:00 am

The word "piss" appears in 17th century English as a polite term for urination. What is the actual origin of the word and how did it come to be considered vulgar?
Submitted by Frank Martin (St. Louis, MO - U.S.A.)
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Piss

Post by Jonathon Green » Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am

While the major terms for excreta concern themselves with the function of actually voiding waste matter from the body, that for urine, for all it that has equally venerable roots, is simply onomatopoeic. 'Piss', with its origins in Old French and Middle English, entered the modern language around 1290 and remained, as is typical of such latterday vulgarisms, in perfectly open use for the next seven hundred years and then, as the shadows of Victorian reticence gathered, vanished into the world of the taboo. In the last twenty or thirty years it seems to have made a comeback, though strictly on colloquial, not SE terms.
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