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In Australian English there has always been a distinction between "pissed" (intoxicated) and "pissed off" (angry, irritated).

I've noticed a trend towards the American usage where "he was really pissed" is now much more likely to mean the latter.

I'm aware of the futility of resisting the natural evolution of language, particulary the juggernaut of American language imperialism via films and TV, but it seems a shame that "I did it because I was pissed" is now ambiguous.

Is this a trend in other English speaking countries where the Australian usage was common?

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4 Answers

In Australian English there has always been a distinction between "pissed" (intoxicated) and "pissed off" (angry, irritated).

This is exactly the same as the British usage.

I've noticed a trend towards the American usage where "he was really pissed" is now much more likely to mean the latter.

I have not noticed that in the UK.

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I have noticed this in the UK - but then many of my friends associate a lot with people from the US, so this may or may not be typical :-) –  psmears Jan 16 '11 at 16:41
    
I blame all the imported American TV :p –  user3490 Feb 4 '12 at 20:26
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Being an American, I can safely say that both are used quite often to mean the same thing: angry or irritated. "I was so pissed when he spilled coffee on my new sweater" or "it really pisses me off when she talks down to me" would be understood in America as the speaker being angry. As far as I know, we never use pissed or pissed off to mean intoxicated.

Also, it is not common to use the imperative/insult (?) piss off in America, but if you were to use it you would be quite well-understood. :)

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In New Zealand, that distinction still exists quite strongly. But, like you, I have heard a few people use "pissed" to mean annoyed, but the vast majority of the time, I have only heard it in the sense of being intoxicated.

I wouldn't worry too much about it though. There are so many words in English that mean "drunk" that it wouldn't cause too much to be lost. But yes, it is a little bit of a shame. But, we cannot stop the juggernaut that is the progression (for good or for bad) of the English language.

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Actually, I wasn't lamenting the loss of the usage so much as the ambiguity in the interim. Each time I hear someone use the expression now there is momentary glitch while I interpret the context. I really don't think there's much that is good or bad either way, just a period where it doesn't sound right for the people who grew up with the original usage. –  ianjs Aug 15 '10 at 13:04
    
Yes. For me, good = better understanding between people, bad = worse understanding between people. How that understanding is achieved, I don't really care :-) –  Vincent McNabb Aug 16 '10 at 0:51
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In Australia, we say 'pissed off' and 'pissed' interchangeably when someone or something has 'given us the shits'. For instance, 'you're being a jerk and now I'm really pissed'. This usage is not uncommon and sounds very natural however we do probably use 'pissed off' more - especially the older generation.

Of course we also used 'pissed' as 'drunk' but I just wanted to point out that the distinction described in the question does not exist. Interestingly, someone has pointed out that the distinction does exist in New Zealand but in Australia 'pissed' can be used in either context.

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Yes, I agree the distinction has almost vanished in Australia, hence my curiosity over whether this wa an international trend. –  ianjs Mar 23 '13 at 11:57
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