AE 373 – Expression: To Take The Piss
G’day, guys! That was a line out of the movie Crocodile Dundee. So, it’s about an Australian bushman, who ends up in the US, and then back in Australia. But I really thoroughly recommend that you check it out if you want to better understand Australian culture as well as American culture and how they differ. So, go and check out Crocodile Dundee.
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Alright! So, let’s get into today’s joke. Today’s Aussie joke is: what do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? What do you call, what do you name, how do you refer to, a boomerang that will not come back, that won’t return? So, “boomerangs” are the weapons that Aborigines, Indigenous Australians, used for hunting, where they threw them, and they spin in the air, and some of them, not all of them, come back. But the joke is what do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? A stick. A stick, guys. It’s just a standard stick.
Alright. Today’s expression, guys, is “To take the piss”, ok? “To take the piss”.
As usual, let’s dive in and define the expression words in today’s episode.
So, “to take”. I’m sure you guys know what “to take”, it is the opposite of “to give”. It means to lay hold of something with your hands, to reach for something and hold it, and it can also mean to remove something from a particular place, ok?
“Piss”. I’m guessing that you guys will know what “piss” is. “Piss” is used in a myriad of different ways, in many, many, many, different ways in English. It can refer to urine or pee, you know, if you need to go to the toilet and do a number one, we can refer to that as “piss”. More broadly, that’s what “a piss” is. I have to go take a piss I, have to go piss etc.. It is slightly rude, although, it’s not really going to offend anyone unless you wish to use it in very, very formal situations, people might be like, “Okay, that was inappropriate”. But I would use this all the time. I have no qualms, I have no issues saying “piss” when talking to you guys, because this is Aussie English you going to hear. It is Aussie English that, if you want to sound like an Australian, you should use. So, “piss” means urine, simply, but it will be used as a swear word sometimes and there are tons and tons and tons of expressions related to “piss”.
“To take the piss”, though, ok? let’s define the expression. “To take the piss”, is a shortened version, it’s a smaller, reduced version of the expression “to take the piss out of someone”, ok? And this doesn’t literally mean to take the urine out of someone, ok? So, don’t worry about that. It means to joke with someone, to tease someone, to mock someone, to ridicule someone, to scoff at someone, ok? But, basically, to joke, make fun of. But it could also be something that you do that’s unreasonable, that isn’t funny, ok? And it is similar to the expression “To take the Mickey out of someone”, “To take the Mickey out of someone”, ok? These two are pretty much synonyms. You’ll hear both in Australia, but “To take the piss” is probably more common.
A quick note here, guys. The importance of using articles like the word a or an vs the word the. If I say I’m taking the piss, then I’m using obviously the word the, that instantly tells me that I’m joking or tells the listener that I’m joking, that I am making fun of something, that I’m talking about something unreasonable because of the word the. To take the piss, ok?
If I say I’m just taking a piss, so I’m using a, the word a, that would tell the listener that I need to go to the toilet, that I have to pee, that I have to urinate, ok? So, “to take the piss” is to joke or kid, but if I say “hey, guys, I need to take a piss!”, that means I need to go to the toilet.
The origin of this expression is pretty interesting, guys. It is originally from Britain, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable going through the specifics of the origin on the podcast, ok? Because it involves erections, which is what men experience when they get sexually excited. So, I don’t want to get too descriptive with that aspect of the origin of this expression, but you can look that up, I will link it in the transcript, if you guys are Aussie English Classroom members, you will be able to see that link and you can go and read about.
But the alternative theory was that during the age of the canals in Britain, urine would be brought up to the canals to wool mills in northern England, as urine was used in the process of fixing dye to walls. So, putting dye onto wool and making it stick. And this was particularly the case for things being dyed indigo or blue, ok? So, with synthetic dyes. And being in the business of transporting urine was much less lucrative than transporting, say, wine. So, when the boatmen were questioned (about*) what they were carrying they would lie and say “I’m taking wine” and the response would be “No, you’re taking the piss!”, to express disbelief. So, that’s one potential origin of this expression.
Anyway, let’s get into some examples of how I would use, “To take the piss”. “To take the piss”.
Alright, number one: you want to trick someone, ok? You’re playing a joke on someone. So, imagine you’re at work, It’s been a long week and a long day. You’re wrecked, you’re knackered, you’re absolutely spent, you know, incredibly tired. It’s a Friday evening, and usually, on a Friday evening you and your mates at work go to a nearby pub to sink a few pints of beer and to shoot the shit, ok? So, that’s a sort of rude expression, slang expression, informal expression, for to have a yarn or to chat. So, to have a talk with mates. We’re just shooting the shit. Your boss comes in and says, “You have to stay late and keep working while everyone else goes to the pub”. Because you’re shocked, you’re surprised, you’re angry, you’re upset, you ask him “Are you taking the piss? Are you kidding? Are you joking? You can’t be serious. Are you taking the piss?”, and your boss says, “Yeah, mate! We’re joking, we’re joking! Let’s all go. We were just taking the piss!”.
Example number two: ok, someone does something stupid, in this example. So, imagine you’ve got a teenage son. He’s a bit wild, he’s a little rambunctious, mischievous, he’s naughty, you know, he does naughty things from time to time. You come home one day after work, maybe you went out to shoot the shit with your mates at the local pub, you come home and you find that your son, your teenage son, has gotten into your fridge and he’s drunk three of your stubbies. So, he’s drinking alcohol when he’s under age and he shouldn’t be doing that, and not to mention, he’s stolen it from you. So, if you come inside and you get angry, because he’s done something really stupid, irresponsible, mischievous, naughty, you might say to him, “Mate, are you taking the piss?”, as in, “Are you joking?”, like, “What the hell are you doing? Is this some kind of stupid joke? Are you taking the piss?”. It’s not that you are making fun of anyone, it’s that this person has done something incredibly dumb, and you’re asking them “Are you taking the piss?”, like, “Why would you do this?”.
Example number three: to tease someone, to make fun of someone. So, this is where it’s more a joke or a trick, but in a nasty way, ok? So… well, not necessarily really nasty but not in a pleasant, nice way, ok? So, imagine you’ve got a mate and he’s just gone to get a haircut, he’s had his haircut on his head, and it resembles a mullet. And “a mullet” is a hair style in Australia where all of the hair on the very top of your head and on the sides of your head is very short, you know, maybe three centimetres long, two centimetres long, it’s been shaved down, it’s been reduced. But the hair at your back, the back of your head has been left incredibly long. That is “a mullet”, and they were very, very popular in Australia, in, I think, the 70s, 80s and 90s, probably the 80s and the 90s, ok? And, yeah, thanks mum and dad for giving me a mullet when I was a kid, very embarrassing to see those photos. Anyway. Ok, so your mate’s got a haircut and it looks like he’s got a mullet. So, you start to pay him out, you start making fun of him, you make a few jokes and you say, “Mate, you look like a bit of a bogan! What’s with the mullet? What is with the mullet, mate?”, and he gets angry, he looks at you, he starts having a whinge, “Why would you tease me? It’s, it’s what my missus likes, my girlfriend likes my hair like this!”. And then you say, “Don’t worry, mate, I’m just taking the piss! We’re just joking around, we’re taking the piss.”.
So, hopefully by now, guys, you understand the expression “To take the piss”. Remember, “To take the piss”. It means to be joking around, teasing, mocking someone, but it can also be that you are shocked by something stupid someone’s done, ok? Or it could be that someone has tricked you, and you could say “(Are) you taking the piss! You joking? What the hell?!”.
So, let’s go through a listen and repeat exercise, guys, so that you can now practice your Aussie pronunciation, ok? So, listen and repeat after me.
Listen & Repeat:
Taking the piss.
Taking the piss.
Taking the piss.
Am I taking that piss?
Are you taking the piss?
Is he taking the piss?
Is she taking the piss?
Are we taking the piss?
Are they taking the piss?
Is it taking the piss?
(A) quick note there, guys, and we’ll go over this more thoroughly in The Aussie English Classroom, in the lesson that will tackle connected speech and intonation, but I want you guys to focus in on, I want you to notice, that because this is a question, firstly, I’ve inverted the front of the sentence. I’m not saying, “I am taking the piss”, I’m saying, “Am I taking the piss?”. And, secondly, I want you to notice intonation wise that the end of the sentence goes up. So, instead of saying “I’m taking the piss”, that’s going down, I say “Am I taking the piss? And it goes up. Ok? So, that shows that it’s a question and we do that a lot in English. Anyway.
Today’s Aussie fact is related to Burke and Wills. Burke and Wills. These were two early Australian explorers, guys, and it’s a very famous exploration story in Australia. I’ve been listening to an audio book the past week, guys, by Peter FitzSimons, he’s a famous author in Australia, and it’s called “Burke and Wills: The triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers.
So, these guys were exploring Australia in the 19th century. So, they went from Melbourne, in the south, three and a half thousand kilometres north, inland, they didn’t go along the coast, the east coast of Australia. They went through the middle, through the guts, of Australia from South to North, from Melbourne, all the way up to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, I think on the border of Queensland and the Northern Territory. And this was in 1860 and 1861.
So, it’s an amazing story, guys. It’s an amazing story. Nineteen men went with Burke and Wills with the objective of crossing Australia because at this time no one had done it, and this part of Australia hadn’t been explored. They had no idea what was happening in the centre of Australia. In fact, they took boats with them, that’s how weird it was. They took boats because they were expecting to find an inland sea. Anyway, it’s a very tragic story as Burke and Wills died before being able to get back to Melbourne after they had successfully completed this expedition. But there is a lot of stupid things that they did during this journey.
So, I really recommend reading this book, checking this book out. It gives you some really interesting insights into what Australians were like in the mid 18th century, what they spoke like, the English they used. You also get to learn quite a bit about indigenous people that they met on their travels all the way up to the North of Australia.
But the reason that I wanted to mention these guys as Australia’s fact today is because during this book, during listening to this book, I heard one of them say in a letter that it was time to take the piss. I think this is just a coincidence, but they used this when referring to needing to drink their own urine, because they were dying of dehydration. So, these guys were stranded in the desert and they were badly dehydrated, they hadn’t drunk water in several days. I think it was about 72 hours, three days. They hadn’t drunk any water, so they were close to dead, and they… one of them said, “It’s time to take the piss”. And so, I thought that’s interesting if that was tied in with, you know, “Are you taking the piss?” Like, “Are you drinking your own urine? Is that…? Are you crazy?”, from, you know, being dehydrated and drinking your own urine? That this is a joke.
Anyway. Apparently, that’s not where this expression came from, though I thought wow! That’s an interesting way of thinking about it. Anyway, guys. Check out Burke and Wills and let me know what you think of them in a comment below this episode.
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Anyway, I’ve rabbited on. I’ve talked… I’ve talked my head off. I hope you guys have a fricking amazing week, and I can’t wait to see you guys on Facebook and in The Aussie English Classroom, and I will chat to you soon.
Stay cool, guys! Peace out.