Taking the piss (was: teenager doing accents)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 6 13:35:03 UTC 2010

For one brief shining moment Americans did get irony.  Remember the phrase,
"You're putting me on"?

HDAS has a possibly unreliable ex. of "put someone on" from "1932," a real
one from ca1953.  The phrase took off ca1960, was in nearly iconic use for a
decade or so, then receded into comparative obscurity.

OED has "put-on," n., from 1919, but the nuance is rather different (an
assumed behavior, a mere pose - not a joke or a prank). The same is true of
the 1949 ex.  To me the two concepts are quite distinct and require two
numbered definitions.

But what the hell do I know (if you get my meaning)?

Like so much '50s and '60s slang, "put on" seems to have come from
jazz-playin', drug-usin' circles.  (Another factor that makes the 1949 ex.
seem less certain.)


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

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Lynne Murphy <m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK>
> Subject:      Re: Taking the piss (was: teenager doing accents)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?'  'Stop taking the
> piss!'  or 'Don't mind him, he's just taking the piss out of you'  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.  But I wouldn't say
> that intention to deceive is part of it.  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
> --On den 5 oktober 2010 14:22 -0400 Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> > On Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 6:23 AM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at post.harvard.edu>
> > wrote:
> >
> >> My impression was that a successful pisstake
> >> was done to someone's face but with sufficient subtlety that the
> >> victim didn't know he was having the piss taken.
> >
> > That sounds like what is/was? called "joning" (I don't have even the
> > wildest guess as to the origin of the connection between sound and
> > meaning, in this case) in Saint Louis BE.
> >
> > Peggy sees Darlene engaging the full attention of a group of four guys
> > who, consequently, have failed to acknowledge Peggy's arrival.
> >
> > P. Darlene, why don't you shut up?! Your *mouth* is too big!
> >
> > D. Well, at least, my mouth isn't as big as that *hole* that *you're*
> > standing over!
> >
> > Thrown into confusion by this retort, Peggy, incredibly and foolishly,
> >  actually looks down and around for the "hole" to which Darlene has
> > referred, not in the least aware that Darlene has just _joned_ with
> > her in a manner relevant only WRT female anatomy, yet has done so so
> > subtly that Peggy has no idea what Darlene is talking about, yet so
> > clearly that the reference is totally obvious to bystanders, who, of
> > course, are laughing their asses off.
> >
> > Had Peggy immediately grasped Darlene's meaning, she *still* would
> > have been "fronted off" - publicly humiliated.
> >
> > Joning doesn't get much better that that!
> > --
> > -Wilson
> > –––
> > All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
> > come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> > –Mark Twain
> Dr M Lynne Murphy
> Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
> Director of English Language and Linguistics
> School of English
> Arts B348
> University of Sussex
> Brighton BN1 9QN
> phone: +44-(0)1273-678844
> http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com
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