Taking the piss (was: teenager doing accents)

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Oct 6 13:23:23 UTC 2010

On Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:04 PM, Lynne Murphy <m.l.murphy at sussex.ac.uk> wrote:

> One  thing about 'taking the piss' is that it's almost always used in
> reaction to it happening--i.e. 'Are you taking the piss?' Â 'Stop taking the
> piss!' Â or 'Don't mind him, he's just taking the piss out of you' Â Since
> taking the piss involves sarcasm (I can't think of a verbal example when it
> doesn't, and the inanimate examples are cases of irony), there's always the
> chance that it will go unnoticed or that there's unsureness about whether
> the piss is being taken or the person's being sincere. Â But I wouldn't say
> that intention to deceive is part of it. Â If Americans say that it is, then
> we're just adding to the British preconception that we don't 'get' irony!
> :)
> Incidentally, OED doesn't record any sense of deception with it:
> b. colloq. (chiefly Brit., Austral., and N.Z.). to take the piss (out of):
> to make fun (of), to mock, deride, satirize; = to take the mickey (out of)
> at MICKEY n.1 7.
> Lynne

Thanks for this explanation, Lynne. In my idiolect, which is idiotic
in more ways than one, taking the piss does involve veiled sarcasm,
perhaps because that's what I observed countless times at university
in England. But I sit corrected.


Paul Frank
German, French, Italian > English
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
Tel. +41 77 4096132
paulfrank at post.harvard.edu
paul.frank at bfs.admin.ch

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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