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Pee Like a Racehorse (or an Old Woman)

Is it a good old word or a bad one? Well it’s certainly an old word. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it goes back to around 1290:

piss (v.) … c.1290, from O.Fr. pissier “urinate” (12c.), from V.L. *pissiare, of imitative origin. As a pure intensifier (cf. piss-poor, piss-ugly, etc.) it dates from World War II. Pissed off “angry, fed up” is 1946, U.S. slang. To piss off “go away” is attested from 1958, chiefly British. Piss and vinegar first attested 1942. Piss-prophet “one who diagnosed diseases by inspection of urine” is attested from 1625. Piss proud “erect upon awakening” is attested from 1796.

It pops up fairly often on beer and wine labels. Above is Horse Piss Beer, made in Louisville, Kentucky. Another beer along these lines is Piss Brand Beer, made in Australia. And then there is Pisse Vieille wine, from Beaujolais. Wiki explains the name thusly:

The Brouilly cru also contains the famous Pisse Vieille vineyard (roughly translated as “piss old woman!”) which received it name from a local legend of a devout Catholic woman who misheard the local priest’s absolution to “Allez! Et ne péchez plus.” (Go! And sin no more.) as “Allez! Et ne pissez plus.” (Go! And piss no more). The vineyard name is the admonishment that her husband gave to her upon learning of the priest’s words.

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One Response to “Pee Like a Racehorse (or an Old Woman)”

  1. February 13th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Paul Jorgensen says:

    I am surprised to say that it seems like they could get HORSE PISS past the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) despite the curious taste (ahem) associated with this beer name. I would have thought the mark unregistrable since trademark law prohibits the registration of scandalous material. For example, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), the judicial branch of the PTO, just found the mark A-HOLE PATROL unregistrable (see In re Jibjab Media, Inc., Serial No. 78951377 (February 4, 2009)) saying that showing a mark is “vulgar” suffices to establish that it “consists of or comprises immoral … or scandalous matter.” Apparently, since the PTO also considers the mark in the context of the marketplace for the goods, you can register PISS but not A-HOLE. Curious.

    The question becomes: why would you want this as a trademark? At least two other parties have thought PISS trademarks for beer was a natural: PTO records reflect an application for the trademarks HORSE PISS and PANTHER PISS. While the PTO did not reject either application as covering a scandalous mark, both applicants abandoned these applications before registration. The record doesn’t reflect why, but one can imagine the dead silence in the meeting where the folks who dreamt up the trademark introduced it to their advertisers.

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