[Ads-l] piss-burned

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 31 15:53:12 UTC 2016

This make a start at filling a gap in the OED's entry on this very useful
word, and establishes an early U. S. provenance.

A man who had escaped from Debtors' Prison described:
"Lawton is a Man about 5 Feet 7 Inches high, wears a Piss-burn'd Wig, is
very talkative, pitted with the Small Pox, and a Native of Ireland"
N-Y Journal; or, the General Advertiser, March 8, 1770, p. 3, col. 3


piss-burnt adj. (also *piss-burned*) now chiefly *U.S.**regional* discoloured
or damaged by or as by urine (also *fig.* and in extended use); (in later
use sometimes) *spec.*of a yellowish- or reddish-brown colour.
1565    *King Daryus* sig. Cii,   Gyt thee away thou pys burnde Cokolde.
1687    A. Behn *Luckey Chance*  ii. i. 18   This old Campaign..a Cloak to
sculk in a-Nights, and a pair of Piss-burn'd shammy Breeches.
1699    E. Ward *London Spy* I.  iii. 3   After redeeming our Liberties
from this Piss-burn'd Prison [*sc.* Bedlam].
1742    H. Fielding *Joseph Andrews* II.  iii. xi. 158   A Piss-burnt Beard.
1877    E. Peacock *Gloss. Words Manley & Corringham, Lincs.* 194
*Piss-burnt*, said of the hair of an animal bleached by the sun.
1994    A. Theroux *Primary Colors* 233   It is more often than not,
usually a sort of rust or piss-burnt auburn or wiry orange.

George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

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

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