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I was watching a BBC documentary with Louis Theroux called "Drinking to Oblivion."

During an interview at 26:44, a person with an alcohol problem tells Theroux:

I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I was out pissing it up too much, really, and was pretty horrible to her, frankly. I remember, after that, thinking, I definitely, definitely don't ever want to drink again "because I don't want to put someone through that again."

It should be noted that the speaker is an educated person who appeared sober at the time of saying this.

I am aware that pissed can mean drunk. I also know about the slang phrase piss drunk which means extremely drunk.

I'm obviously guessing that "pissing it up" means getting very drunk (based on context, if nothing else.) However, I have not found any references for this phrase online.

  1. How old is this phrase? Is this a relatively new slang phrase, or a recent variation of the two examples I referred to above?
  2. What exactly does it mean? I've guessed that it simply means to get very drunk. Is this correct, and/or is there anything else to it? Detailed descriptions are welcome.

Good references would certainly be welcome. So would references to the phrase being used.

  • 3
    I have never heard it used quite like that, but a piss up is well-understood vernacular for a serious drinking session. – WS2 Oct 4 '16 at 20:11
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    @WS2 I'll drink to that! Those involved in any drinking session of a "serious" nature would, no doubt, acquit themselves far better than those trying and failing to organize a proverbial piss up in a brewery. – Peter Point Oct 4 '16 at 20:27
  • 'Pissed', with 'up' attested as early as 1929 (probably earlier could be found): "Chiefly Brit. Drunk, intoxicated. Also with up." (OED Online) In a variety of phrases, 'pissed as a newt' being common. – JEL Oct 4 '16 at 20:41
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    There is also the longer version, which may be the original, which is "pissing it up agaist a wall". In my experience this refers to habitual (if not problem) drinking, is usually used to describe the actions of a third party and is always at least mildly condemnatory. Looking at the rest of the quote I believe that the person speaking in the quote may be using "pissing it up" in this sense. – BoldBen Oct 4 '16 at 20:48
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    I thought that adage "He would not be able to organize a piss up at a brewery" was pretty popular. But what do I know! In short, piss up is an act of drinking, plain and simple. The speaker was getting loaded. – ajeh Nov 23 '16 at 18:45
2

piss something up

Spoil or ruin something.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/piss

  • The Oxfordd definition is clearly a valid one in some contexts; but if we patch it into the poster's quotation we get, "I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I was out spoiling [or ruining] something too much, really, and was pretty horrible to her, frankly." That wording doesn't seem as coherent as the one you'd get by patching in the definition given for the exact phrase "piss it up"—namely "to drink"—in _Chambers Dictionary of Slang_which yields, "I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I was out drinking too much, really, and was pretty horrible to her, frankly." – Sven Yargs Nov 24 '16 at 5:10
  • I'm not so sure. "I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I was out ruining the relationship [or life in general] too much, really, and was pretty horrible to her, frankly." Anyways, I'm just giving the simplest interpretation that is not that heavily influenced by what people apparently really want to read. (Like: this particular sentence must be about drink, because the whole thing is about drink.) – We oath to creation Nov 24 '16 at 5:18
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Dictionaries of British slang are awash in piss terms, but most of them don't mention verb forms that combine piss and up. Consistent with the Oxford Dictionaries definition of "piss something up" cited in the answer given by "Keep these mind", John Ayto & John Simpson, The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (1992) has this entry for to piss up:

to piss up to spoil or ruin Cf. PISS-UP noun 1 ["A mess-up; a bungle or confusion"] 1937–.

Ayto & Simpson reports that the noun form of piss-up is younger than the verb form of to piss up, dating only to 1950, but that it is nevertheless two years older than the more widely recognized modern meaning of piss-up as a noun ("a bout of heavy drinking," according to this dictionary; "a drunken party," according to Jonathon Green, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang [1984]).

Jonathon Green, Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) provides three meanings for the verb phrase piss up, none of them very similar to Ayto & Simpson's definition:

piss up v. 1 {1960s–1970s} (U.S.) to vomit 2 see PISS OFF v. (2) ["to annoy"]. 3 see PISS ON v ["to treat contemptuously"].

More to the present point, Green has entries specifically for piss it up and for piss it up the wall:

piss it up v {fig. use of sense 2 ["to urinate"] above} {1960s+} to drink. piss it up the wall {var. on next [piss (money) against the wall)]} {late 15C+} to waste money on drink; thus to waste money in general.

Green also lists these "pissing up" phrases: piss up a rope ("to be engaged in a futile exercise"—U.S. slang), piss up someone's back ("to flatter someone"), piss up someone's leg ("to lie, to deceive"— U.S. slang), and piss up a storm ("to complain strongly, to make a major fuss"—U.S. slang).

Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990) has an interesting note on the noun piss-up:

piss-up n British a drinking bout, drunken celebration. A vulgarism used neutrally or with cheerful overtones rather than disapprovingly.

I think that Green's definition of piss it up ("to drink") is the one relevant to the poster's question:

I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I was out [drinking] too much, really, and was pretty horrible to her, frankly.

Green says that the phrase goes back to the 1970s and involves a figurative use of piss in the sense of "to urinate." It might be slightly more accurate to say that the phrase alludes to a necessary physiological consequence of heavy drinking.

1

I have heard the phrase used by elderly New Zealanders twenty-five years ago as ordinary conversation and have heard it used in 1960s British TV clips. So, it is at least half a century old.

I haven't seen the phrase in any British literature from WWI or older.

This is as close as I can bracket it. The meaning is the one you have inferred from context.

0

"pissing it up" too much

"it" in context is money spent on drink. Likely vital household income.

i.e. He was drinking all the wages.

  • Absurd. Piss up is an act of drinking. It has nothing to do with spending. – ajeh Nov 23 '16 at 18:43
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    Not entirely absurd, sir. Pissing it up [against the wall] is to waste your money on alcohol. – PCARR Jan 23 '17 at 16:52
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I think in this context it means making a serious mess of his life, almost as though he was pissed (drunk). He's saying that his behaviour and actions were not reasoned or acceptable, even to himself.

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    No, that's not what it means; "pissing it up" simply means drinking a lot of alcohol. It's readily understandable slang for British and Australian speakers. – Chappo Oct 5 '16 at 11:43
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    @SaneAlex - Do you have any references to back up your assertion? Even a statement that you are British and have lived all of your ##years in the UK would be helpful (you can edit that in by clicking the word "edit" underneath your answer. Otherwise this is just sounds like pure conjecture, which isn't well received on this site. – AndyT Oct 5 '16 at 15:42
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It's as old as the hills, pissing it up in that context has been used for at least forty years and I expect much more.

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    Do you have a source, or is this personal experience? – Revetahw Oct 18 '16 at 17:57
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    We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – NVZ Oct 18 '16 at 17:58

protected by Mitch Oct 18 '16 at 15:15

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