[Ads-l] to troll =? take the mickey

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Jul 12 19:49:48 UTC 2018

We need Robin Hamilton for this, but can't have him.

My notion of rhyming slang suggests that there was a person named Michael
Bliss who was alluded to in this term.  An athlete, politician, criminal,
perhaps.  (Perhaps even an athletic criminal who was later elected to
Parliament.)  I've checked the files of digitized 19th-20th C British stuff
available to me, and have found nothing much.

A Michael Bliss was arrested in a bar-room brawl, February, 1871 (British
Library Newspapers).

No one in British Periodicals (ProQuest) or 19th C UK Periodicals
(Gale) or 19th
Century Masterfile: 1106-1930.

A Mike Bliss may be a character in The Cotton Spinners, A Tale of
Lancashire Mill Life and Airship Adventure, from a 1908 magazine, but the
main character seems to be Fred Sanders.  British Periodicals (ProQuest)

I'd suggest that anyone searching further should look for "Micky" as well
as "Mickey", and that "Mike" could well be pronounced "Mick".


On Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 12:02 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> Thanks.  I of course thought of “take the Mickey Mouse,” but couldn’t
> bring myself to ignore the vowel, and “take the Mickey Mice” seemed
> improbable on its face as well as an imperfect rhyme.
> John Baker
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of Arnold M. Zwicky
> Sent: Thursday 12 July 2018 10:41 AM
> Subject: Re: to troll =? take the mickey
> > On Jul 12, 2018, at 7:23 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> wrote:
> >
> >> On Jul 12, 2018, at 10:22 AM, Baker, John <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:
> >>
> >> Can you explain the Mickey/piss rhyme? I assume it’s cockney, but I
> don’t know a word that would naturally follow Mickey and rhymes with piss.
> >
> > Well, there’s “mouse”, if you ignore the vowel.
> from the Phrase Finder site, here:
> https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/344000.html<https://
> www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/344000.html>
> What's the meaning of the phrase 'Take the Mickey'?
> Tease or make fun of.
> What's the origin of the phrase 'Take the Mickey'?!
> There are various forms of this: take/extract the Mick/Mickey/Michael,
> although the 'take the Mickey' version is most often used in print.
> It is sometimes reported that the phrase originates as a variant of the
> slang phrase 'take the piss' and the the 'Mickey' refers to micturate. This
> seems rather fanciful and there's no evidence to support that view. It is
> now more generally accepted that the phrase came about as rhyming slang.
> 'Taking the piss' does play its part as the rhyming slang refers to a (yet
> to be identified) character called Mickey Bliss. So, 'taking the piss'
> became 'taking the Mickey Bliss' and then just 'taking the Mickey'. An
> early citation of the longer form 'taking the Mickey Bliss' would be useful
> here, but I've not come across one.
> Taking the piss is reported as originating in the UK in the 1930s and
> 'taking the Mickey' probably came not long afterwards. The first form of
> the phrase in print - as 'take the mike' - comes from 1935, in George
> Ingram's _Cockney Cavalcade_:
> "He wouldn't let Pancake 'take the mike' out of him."
> The precise wording - 'take the Mickey' doesn't appear in print until a
> few years later. The earliest I've found as yet is in J. Henry's _Who lie
> in Gaol_, 1952:
> "She's a terror. I expect she'll try and take the mickey out of you all
> right. Don't you stand for nothin'."
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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.

But when aroused at the Trump of Doom / Ye shall start, bold kings, from
your lowly tomb. . .
L. H. Sigourney, "Burial of Mazeen", Poems.  Boston, 1827, p. 112

The Trump of Doom -- also known as The Dunghill Toadstool.  (Here's a
picture of his great-grandfather.)

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

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