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I've seen people go quiet when they hear one of them.
I also remember hearing it bleeped on television.
Are they inappropriate? To what extent? What audience could or should not hear it?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Another culture-dependent question.

Both are regarded as profane in the UK; they are commonly used, but generally not in polite company. Whether it would get bleeped on television depends on context, and particularly whether they are before or after the watershed.

I get the impression, and it is only an impression from television, that both terms are somewhat more acceptable in the US. That is, I've heard them used, particularly pissed, in surprisingly polite company.

Note: Pissed off is universally understood, but pissed has different meanings. In North America, it is synonymous with pissed off, but in the UK it means 'inebriated'. Also, we are fond of telling people to 'piss off!' which means something different still...

I remember the end of Monty Python Live at The Hollywood Bowl, after the final encore, 'Piss Off' is used with comedic effect to dismiss the audience. Script] Piss Off!

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+1 for the added perspective your answer brings! – Jimi Oke Dec 16 '10 at 23:25
Sorry - not the clearest image, but the best I could do. – CJM Dec 16 '10 at 23:47
@CJM: Whilst we definitely used pissed to mean drunk, I have heard plenty of English people use it to mean "pissed off" as well. I would not say either are considered profane at all, certainly not in the younger generations, on a par with crap in that regard. – Orbling Dec 17 '10 at 1:15
@Orbling: certainly very true. A couple years ago, I was using crap almost every minute. I still use it occasionally. Normally, I don't use pissed off or pissed, but I hear it in conversation all the time. I mean, I have friends who tell me point blank when "I'm pissing them off"! And I don't bat an eyelid. It may be considered uncouth in certain situations, but among the youth, like you said, the p -word is certainly not on the level of the f -word, or even the s -word, which is gradually being vulgarized (vulgarize here means to make commonplace). – Jimi Oke Dec 17 '10 at 1:49
Hmmm... I'm approached 40 now, which might define my view on this. I'm pissed is never used in earshot of me, and that includes amongst my nieces & nephews (16-23yrs) though I can see how it might creep in over time. It's certainly much milder than f & c words, thus I think is often used in comedy, but it's still something you wouldn't say in front of your mum, whereas crap is still technically vulgar, you are unlikely to offend anyone. It is used in work environments, and even my mother-in-law wouldn't object (which is a key barometer!). – CJM Dec 17 '10 at 10:26

It depends on your audience. They wouldn't be appropriate for an audience of children (say, Sesame Street), but probably ok for a late night comedy show (say, Adult Swim or stand up). For a work setting, I would avoid using them except when you really need to express anger and vitriol, and even then there are more appropriate ways to say it.

And of course, among your friends you should often try to say things that piss them off :)

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My daughter is writing a novel for school, and she used the word "pissed". I have no idea if it is appropriate for her school, but I think it is fine. It just means that someone is extremely angry.

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