Detail the Bayeux Tapestry: william at the battle of Hastings. Image by Myrabella, 2013, license is granted under creative Commons.

You are watching: Origin of pot to piss in


31 December 2015

The usage ofpissas one intensifier appears in the mid twentieth century U. S. Slang. The very first recorded use is in Ezra Pound’sCantos LII–LXXI, lxix., which contains the line:

Bingham, Carrol the Carrolton gone piss-rotten for Hamilton Cabot, Fisher Ames .

Why exactlypissis provided in this fashion is uncertain, however it’s probably for the shock value.

The an initial use that the phrasepiss pooritself is uncovered in the archives that the OED, whereby it is recorded in the writing of A. L. Hench in 1946:

Piss-poor… Jim Constantine (...formerly sergeant in wait Corps in West Indies) told me this morning the this word was supplied by every the soldiers he come in call with as descriptive the a point in its lowest condition… E.g. This is a piss-poor outfit. My job is a piss-poor one.

Other provides ofpiss-from the mid century arepiss-chic,piss-elegant, andpiss-easy.

A comparable phrase isnot to have a pot to piss in, indicating too much poverty. This one is videotaped a bit earlier than piss poor, through the OED having a quote from 1934. It appears in a typescript of Djuna Barnes 1936 novelNightwood:

My love aches for all bad creatures placing on dog, and not a pot to piss in or a home window to throw it from.

The mix and the alliteration the the 2 phrases probably helpedpiss poorsurvive while its other early counterparts have actually not become part of the lexicon.

It’s to be a while since I’ve checked out the old email hoaxLife in the 1500sfloating about. A series of false etymologies of typical terms, the hoax dates back to 1999, and I spent whole chapter debunking that inWord Myths. Yet yesterday my brother sent out me a attach to a variation that popped increase on an net site recently. (I’m not providing the link since I don’t desire to drive website traffic to the site.) for the most part, that a word-for-word repetition of the old hoax, but it does add one brand-new termpiss poor. The site cases the phrase comes from the exercise of negative people collecting and selling their urine for use in tanning pet hides, and also that those that were really, yes, really poor,didn’t have actually a pot to piss in.

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It is true that urine, i beg your pardon is acidic, was once supplied in tanning leather. It helped loosen tissue and also hair that continued to be on the skins and also softened the hide. Urine was additionally used in production of dye and of gunpowder and for various other purposes. However these offers all but disappeared in the nineteenth century v the advent of contemporary chemistry and also the capability to produce man-made substitutes cheaply and efficiently. So this old practice is not the origin of the phrasepiss poorornot having actually a pot come piss in, which both show up long after ~ the practice of using urine in commercial production had actually ended.