pea-warmer / pee-warmer

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Apr 3 01:17:22 UTC 2005

"Pea- / pee-warmer" appears to mean "humdinger," if we can believe the roughly half-dozen citations found in print between 1877 and 1901.  Naturally, all are spelled as "pea-," not "pee-."

The earliest ex. is as the name of a mine in the Dakota Territory.

There are no independent cites known after 1901, except for the one on the Net that claims a "pea-warmer " to be a little brassiere.  Right.

The semantic and etymological puzzles here are inseparably entwined, along with the mysteries of  1) why "pea-warmer" (esp. if understood as "pee-warmer") should have so completely fallen from use, and 2) how the guy on the Net happened to hear it.

No biggie, but insights invited, as always.


Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
Thanks, Doug.  The Russian site probably got "piss-warmer" from Partridge, who is of little help in this.

The word is still something of a puzzle.


"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
Subject: Re: pea-warmer / pee-warmer

>Is anybody familiar with either of these terms?

Hardly anybody, I suspect.

>If "pea" is the correct form, as our exx. suggest, what the ????? HDAS
>III needs to know.

Quick newspaper search turns up a half dozen instances in the early 1890's,
usually with the apparent sense "humdinger" or "doozie" or "something

I find one instance as the name of a mine near Deadwood in 1877.

One might speculate that the original or genuine form was "piss-warmer"; if
this was the case, and if the expression was infrequent/obscure, it might
have been written with "pea" as a euphemism (which maybe was the only form
which would be printable) (cf. "do a sweet pea" = "urinate").

One obvious question is whether "piss-warmer" exists or existed. I find it
as an ostensibly genuine lexical item only once in Web search, in the
Multitran Russian-English dictionary where it is equated to Russian
"prijatnoe" or "priyatnoye" or whatever (spelled with 8 Cyrillic letters
p-r-i-ya-t-n-o-[y]e) ... I guess "something great/fine/pleasant" or so. [My
Russian is near-nonexistent, even weaker than my English; maybe one of the
savants can improve/correct my impression here.] The fact that a bunch of
what appear to be Maori words appear in this dictionary suggests that
sources of the English words here may have included NZ English (and who
knows what-all else).

Of course "piss-warmer" might could be derived from "pea-warmer" instead of
vice versa.

-- Doug Wilson

Do you Yahoo!?
Better first dates. More second dates. Yahoo! Personals

Do you Yahoo!?
 Better first dates. More second dates. Yahoo! Personals

More information about the Ads-l mailing list