"Full of piss and vinegar"

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

"Full of piss and vinegar"

Post by Ruggedsolace » Mon May 22, 2017 4:23 pm

I read a previous posting here but was unable to comment on it. My grandfather who was born in the 1890s would use that phrase a lot regarding someone full of energy. My thoughts on its origin may refer to a drink of cider and vinegar that would supposedly quench a thirst as well as give the person some energy.
Post actions:

Re: "Full of piss and vinegar"

Post by BonnieL » Mon May 22, 2017 4:55 pm

This came up yesterday. My husband used the phrase "vim & vigor;" I wondered if it was the precursor to "piss & vinegar."

I found this on-line:
As far back as 1602, in Return from Parnassas - "They are pestilent fellowes, they speake nothing but bodkins, and pisse vinegar."
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/piss ... negar.html

Perhaps an "and" got inserted?
Post actions:

Re: "Full of piss and vinegar"

Post by Phil White » Wed May 24, 2017 10:08 pm

I have to say, I have never heard it in the UK, so it may be a US thing.

I ended up at the same place as Bonnie, namely phrases.org, and found the brief discussion there pretty satisfactory, for want of any more concrete evidence of a specific origin. I certainly feel that the use of "vinegar" as a humorous version of "vigour" is extremely likely.

A brief look at the Ngram viewer shows that the precise phrase "piss and vinegar" seems to be unknown before the 1930s (apart from one single literal instance about the treatment of wood!). The article at phrases.org dates it back to 1936 in John Steinbeck's novel "In Dubious Battle".

The subsequent popularity of Steinbeck, particularly in the 60s and 70s probably cemented the phrase into the language.

I tend to disagree with the author of the article on phrases.org in the assumption that Steinbeck did not actually coin the phrase. Given Steinbeck's positive playfulness with dialect and spoken language, I would absolutely not put it past him to have coined it. But perhaps he heard it somewhere and found a use for it.
Post actions:
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: "Full of piss and vinegar"

Post by tony h » Sat May 27, 2017 8:33 pm

BonnieL wrote:This came up yesterday. My husband used the phrase "vim & vigor;"
This is a phrase that was used a lot at my school. The rugby coach in particular used to analyse players on a scale of Vim and a scale of Vigour.

Vim is acquired from the Latin meaning Strength or Force. So full of vim and vigour is to have both strength and action.
Post actions:
Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: "Full of piss and vinegar"

Post by JosephPa » Tue May 30, 2017 5:41 pm

re: "piss & vinegar"
This is a means of conveying the affect presented by someone who is sharp tongued and who (when speaking/acting) is both bitter (gall) and in communication is an affront to good natured when one encounters them.
This person is very negative and uncomfortable to encounter. The phrase is used to convey anger whether speaking of a circumstance or another person. it is used instead of offensive swearing, however the vehemence is not softened, but is apparent by the manner by the intensity of the analogy (?).

Does this make sense?
Post actions:

End of topic.
Post Reply