“Piss Off!”

A dependable American NOOBS informant, who wishes to remain anonymous, suggests an entry on “Piss off!” which she or he claims to be hearing more and more. This is distinct from “piss off” meaning to annoy, which started as U.S. service slang in World War II, and got picked up in Britain by 1989, according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang. And it’s also distinct from “pissed” meaning drunk, which is a Britishism dating from 1810 and has yet to be picked up in the U.S.–hence, a NOOB in waiting.

Green’s reveals that “piss off” originated in circa the 1920s as a verb meaning “to leave”; a 1959 Kingsley Amis letter notes, “She pissed off at about 9.” “Piss off” as a command is defined by Green’s as “an excl. of rejection, dismissal.” Citations–all from British or Commonwealth sources–date from 1934, with the most recent being from David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, 2006: “The gypsy kid sat under the cedar sending out piss off waves.” The dictionary doesn’t say so, but it seems to me clearly a euphemism for the saltier “f— off.”

Has “Piss off!” penetrated to the United States? Not wanting to just take my informant’s word for it, I turned to Twitter, specifically the geo-tagging feature in TweetDeck. This allows me to create a column consisting of tweets containing the phrase “piss off” that originated within a 200-kilometer radius of New York City.

Bingo–we have a NOOB.

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 7.43.15 PM

You’ll note that the tweet from “Autistic Lady – FEC demon -”  sure doesn’t sound like it originated from the New York vicinity, filled with Britishisms as it is. She subsequently explained:

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 7.44.05 PM

24 responses to ““Piss Off!”

  1. Haha, it’s actually a pretty good attempt at British insults from Autistic Lady, but “be a good little pillock” gives it away. That made me chuckle.

    And yes, “piss off” is basically synonymous with f… off. I wouldn’t say it’s a euphemism though, it’s only slightly less offensive.

    (I’d be amazed if this comment doesn’t require moderator approval)

  2. What about the line in Mrs Doubtfire where Robin Williams’s character tells his boss to piss off?

  3. Then there’s Friday being known as POETS day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.

  4. Piss Off as in ordering someone to F—off:
    My siblings and I (Boston, MA) have been saying that since we were small;
    probably moreso when we were younger before we graduated to or in lieu of saying F—-off (which could get us in greater trouble).

  5. What about sod off and get lost?
    In order of offensiveness it is probably:
    fcuk off > piss off > sod off > get lost

  6. And of course bugger off, which is probably on a par with piss off.

    • wouldn’t bugger = ‘sod’ given the sodomy reference?

      • Yes, you’d have thought that, but sod off always seems much milder than bugger off to me. Maybe it’s because it’s more ambiguous, and could be a sod of earth? According to the Collins dictionary, “The phrase sod off was formerly considered to be taboo, and it was labelled as such in older editions of Collins English Dictionary. However, it is now acceptable in speech, although more conservative people may object to its use.”

    • And they had to invent “naff off” (or “naff orf” 🙂 ) for the BBC sitcom “Porridge”

  7. And push off and buzz off, which are both very mild.

  8. And I also give you this charming interchange from episode 12 of season 6 of Orange Is The New Black on Netflix:

    “You are the poster child for American ignorance.”

    “And you’re an old **** [insert very rude word] who needs to piss off”

    Interesting, also, given the offensiveness of the deleted word that “piss off” was clearly not used because something less offensive than the otherwise natural f-off was required.

  9. Pingback: “Cheesed off” | Not One-Off Britishisms

  10. Do Americans get ”pissed off”? From what I can see they don’t use the preposition. They get ”pissed”. SO is Green’s dictionary correct that ”pissed off” started in the US?

    • Yes, I’ve also wondered which is more usual in America, ‘pissed off’ or ‘pissed’.

      • “Pissed off” and “pissed” are both of American origin. The former shows up in 1945 and the latter (in a Leon Uris novel) in 1953. I would say they mean the same thing and I would estimate that they are roughly equally common in the U.S. today.

  11. Telling someone to piss off = go away, jog on, take a walk, do one (Liverpudlian) and as mentioned by Anthony, get lost, buzz off, and by others, sling your hook, naff off, bugger off, sod off, up to f off. The intent is each case is offensive but the language is not to the same degree.

  12. A further observation on my comment above, having re-read the earlier comments. The character who says “piss off” speaks with what I believe (as an ignorant Brit) to be a strong Boston accent, so given the comment by theplacethatilove, perhaps this is a Boston thing and the OITNB writers were displaying impressive regional linguistic acuity.

  13. Americans will often say someone is “pissed” when they mean “pissed off.” In Britain, the natives will correct them, saying “you mean pissed off,” for “pissed” means “drunk” in Britain, which it seldom does in America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s