In Praise of Piss


I’m a connoisseur of rude and vulgar language.  I collect it, use it frequently, and occasionally dust off some of my truly one-of-a-kind pieces to lovingly share with the world.

Hey, everybody needs a hobby, right?

But I started thinking about the nature of obscenities the other day, and after considerable reflection, I just don’t get it.

Why do we designate certain words as “offensive”?

They’re just collections of syllables and sounds.  I mean, normal phonetic sounds.  I could understand it if there were swear words that included, say, fart sounds or something – those would be offensive.  But there aren’t any words like that.

Though now I’m feeling inspired…

Back to my point:  “Ay”; “ee”; “oo”; whatever; as long as you’re not including “pbphltttt” as a phonetic building block, they’re all pretty innocuous.  We use them in millions of different sequences, so why should certain combinations make people blush/titter/freeze you with a look of outrage?

I know, I’m zooming past the obvious.  It’s not the phonetic sound that offends, it’s the meaning behind it.  I see how someone with strong religious views might have a problem with exclamations they consider blasphemous, so I’ll leave that topic aside for now.

But what about our good old Anglo-Saxon four-letter words?  Shit, piss, fuck.  These babies have been around for a long time.  They’re short, simple words for perfectly natural body functions.

Why should “shit” be more offensive than “bowel movement”?  Seriously, the words “bowel movement” make me cringe.  And what about our other euphemisms?  Drop a log, pinch a loaf, take a dump – they all sound pretty vulgar.  By comparison, “shit” is quick and tidy.

Ditto “piss”.  What’s so doggone special about the word “urine” that makes it somehow less offensive?  It’s still the same stuff.  And I’m sure those folks with the surname “Uren” would prefer people to use the Anglo-Saxon alternative when referring to bodily functions.  I’ve never met anybody with the surname “Piss”.

Or take “pee”.  (No, I didn’t say “take a pee”.  Well, unless you need to.  In that case, fire away.  Though I’ve never really understood why we say “take” when we really mean “leave”, either.)  But digressions aside, why is it cute when little kids say “pee”, but everybody gasps if they say “piss”?  What’s so cute about “pee”?

Many talented folks have already outlined the versatility of “fuck” as verb, noun, adjective, adverb, interjection, and so on, so I won’t belabour that point.

But think about this:  “Somebody fucked up the copier” is instantly comprehended by virtually every English-speaking person on the planet.  We hear that, and we know we won’t be getting any copies of our document today.

But if we eliminate “fuck”?  Look out.  How about:  “Somebody had sexual intercourse with the copier”?

Bystanders flee screaming, faces contorted in horror.  Those with sensitive stomachs vomit into the nearest receptacle.  Scrub your hands, bleach your brain, stuff yourself into a haz-mat suit and never, ever make copies EVER AGAIN.

A simple F-bomb could have averted that entire disaster.

They’re all perfectly good words:  short, easy to spell, and universally understood.  And we’re not supposed to use them.

I just don’t get it.


39 thoughts on “In Praise of Piss

  1. There are cases where a little vulgarity provides no improvement.

    For example, would a technical document or report be improved by writing “this fucking database management system has piss-poor security” even though you have this very thought as you spend an all-nighter as a computer technician undoing the havoc wrecked on your company’s computer system?

    Of course, repeating the “fuck mantra” (fuck, fuck, fuck…) as you perform an onerous task does lower your blood pressure.


    • Mmmm, I just had a glorious vision of saying those exact words to management. True, it likely wouldn’t improve the result of that particular interaction, but simply imagining it gave me a great deal of enjoyment. I think you’re onto something – unspoken vulgarity can be very soothing!


  2. As you might imagine, I support your opinion heartily. These words are brief, one-syllable, and they get the point across in a very particular way. Sure, there’s the risk of overusing them, but is that really any worse than other overused phrases that aren’t considered “rude”? I’d rather hear a well-placed F-bomb than some idiot using the word “like” twelve times in a sentence, personally.


  3. People who use the F word constantly have nothing left when they really really need something to express the gravity of the situation. As in “What the fuck was that?” (Mayor of Hiroshima).


  4. I happen to love the word Piss. It’s perfect. I like to use it for describing anger such as, “She was meaner than cat piss.” I often let people know when I’m pissed off. I’ve also heard, on long car trips, “Pull over, I have to piss like a race horse.” We used it a lot back in the late 60’s and early 70’s but somehow “piss” seems to have lost it’s way. Of course, in the UK when you’re pissed, you’re drunk, hammered or looped as it were. 😉

    I reserve use of the F-bomb for special occasions when I want to be taken seriously and scare people. It loses it’s potency if it gets over used. Agree?


    • Hmm, I replied to this earlier, but it seems WordPress ate my comment. Very odd – sorry about that.

      I love the expression “meaner than cat piss” – fabulous! “Piss like a racehorse” is a familiar phrase in our lexicon, too, and I often use “disappearing in a spray of weasel piss” to describe rushing madly off somewhere. And here in Canada, being ‘pissed’ may mean either ‘drunk’ or ‘irritated’ depending on the context.

      And you’re right about the potency of the F-bomb, though I’ve never quite understood how it acquired that potency in the first place. 🙂


  5. God I fucking love f bombs too. It takes a heroic effort on my part to curb my language when at work or around kids. You’re absolutely right, it’s so…useful!
    PS, I’m out of books and anxiously awaiting 7. 🙂


    • I had a break this week while I got the garden planted, but now I’m working on Chapter 3. It’s supposed to rain on the long weekend, so I’m hoping to make some major progress!


  6. OMG! You said Bowel Movement? We called those “BMs” when I was growing up. And we said “piddle.” And we didn’t even have a concept for those other words. Maybe that’s why I don’t have any children.

    Everyone knows why we’re supposed to call the planet “UR-a-nus.” My father claimed “Pisces” should really be pronounced “pissees” but that got changed too. I wouldn’t know. I’m just a baby boomer–we didn’t have to know any Latin or any of that other BM.


  7. When I learned English in school, we knew about the F-word, but as we weren’t supposed to use it, it took forever to figure out what it actually meant. But you made a brilliant point today and I’ll never use the word in the same way again haha. Also loved the pumpkin story! Was that for real?


  8. Who was it that said swearing was a sign of a lazy mind? Well I say fuck you. You fucking fuck!!! Shit that took me all day to come up with,and I feel fantastic!!!! ; )


  9. Words, words, words, Diane, I love them. Well, most of them. I’ve never been too keen on boulevard for some reason. Not that it’s offensive or anything, it just makes me cringe. We really are an odd bunch, aren’t we? 😉


  10. I am a HUGE fan of creative vulgar language delivery. I grew up with three brothers, I was in the middle of the pack. I learned how to compete and I can deliver some of the best, most creative vulgar language known to man. However, like you, I am very polite in public company and there are actually people who think I’m not capable of such language. If only they knew I was not only capable, but a connesieur…or however you spell that effing word.

    Anywho, sometime we should exchange creative filth, with flair! Hey, what do you think of the word cock socket?


  11. “By comparison, ‘shit’ is quick and tidy.”—-Hahaha, you’re killing me today, Diane. I couldn’t stop laughing. And I can’t argue with your point either. And yet I still have a polite mouth. Except in traffic. In that situation, all bets are off.

    Thanks for a good laugh!


    • Thanks – glad you had your aerobic workout today! 🙂 You’re right, I don’t use these words in front of anyone but friends or a steering wheel, either. You never know who’ll be offended. Sadly, not everyone shares my opinion on the harmlessness of phonetics.


  12. That copy machine example isn’t so far-fetched. I saw a show a while back about object sexuality – people who love and sexually desire non-living objects, such as cars, walls, and the Eiffel Tower. These were real examples. Somebody “married” the Eiffel Towel, and another person lusted after the Berlin Wall. The main focus of the show was a guy who showed his affection for his car by sweet-talking it, caressing it, and kissing it (and more). From Wiki: “Contrary to sexual fetishism, the object to an OS person is viewed as their partner and not as a means to an end to enhance a human sexual relationship.” Yep, the guy “did it” with his car (they didn’t film that part). I used to know a guy who was (still is) an OS. Holes in the ground turned him on. *Really* turned him on. Ahem. No kidding.


    • LOL! Reminds me of the guy they caught screwing a pumpkin in the middle of a field here in southern Alberta. Apparently he’d carved a suitable aperture in it and was happily humping when the police officer tapped him on the shoulder and asked what the hell he was doing. You have to give him points for aplomb, though. He stared at the officer in shock and exclaimed, “What, is it after midnight already?”


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