The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0972 Monday, 8 April 2002
Date: Friday, 05 Apr 2002 12:07:32 -0800
Subject: 13.0953 Re: Private Urination
Comment: Re: SHK 13.0953 Re: Private Urination
Bill Godshalk wrote:
> I can't recall the relationship of urination to English poetry.
I'm not sure if this will help, but in the KJV accounts in I Samuel 25,
I Kings 14, 16, 21 and II Kings 9, the defending or attacking armies
promise that by morning there won't be left any "that pisseth against
the wall." Other translations simply use the less colorful term "male."
It is less embarrassing to be read out loud in churches, but it loses
the metaphorical punch.
All the references are to soldiers, which isn't so different from Old
English with its umpteen terms for "man" and many of them synonymous
with soldier, i.e. foot-soldier as contrasted with an officer.
Nevertheless, several of these passages seem to use the term to
underscore a contrast of violent macho action with reasoned and
temperate action. This is most evident in the I Sam. passage where
Abigal placates the angry David after her jerk of a husband has insulted
This seems to be in the same ball park, at least, with the passage under
discussion. As to other such in Shakespeare, these are still in the ball
park but way out in left field: Launce in "Two Gentlemen of Verona" uses
the urination metaphor comically with reference to his dog (IV.iv);
several uses of "horse-piss" as a pejorative in the Henriad; and
Falstaff in Merry Wives (V.v):
>When gods have hot backs, what shall poor men do? For me, I am here a
>Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i' the forest: send me a cool
>rut-time, Jove, or who can blame me to piss my tallow?
While we're on the subject, why do you suppose it has come to pass that
the English "piss" is so much more offensive than the French
pronunciation of "pis" or phonetically "pee"? Is it something sibilant?
P.S. I clicked to send this, and my spell check offered me "pushiest"
for "pisseth." Must be something in the water.
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