IN THE POCKET.

A correspondent recently said this in the course of an e-mail to me: “I’m not asking you to piss in my pocket…” In context, it clearly meant “I’m not asking for compliments,” but I found the phrase curious, to say the least. I looked it up in the invaluable Cassell Dictionary of Slang and found:

piss in someone’s pocket, to phr. [1940s+] (Aus.) to curry favour, to be extremely close to someone, to ingratiate oneself.

Now, I’ve always admired the Aussie way with language (see this recent post on slang), but this completely baffles me. In what context could the phrase “piss in my pocket” come to have such a meaning? Or is pissing considered a sign of respect and admiration Down Under? I am grateful in advance for any elucidation.

Comments

  1. The ‘close’ sense is obvious enough. If ever you attempt to piss in someone’s pocket (I am speaking purely speculatively here) you will find you need to stand quite close to them. I guess the ‘ingratiate’ sense is merely an extension of that.
    Of course, if you only want to piss on someone’s pocket you can do that from a greater distance and the sense is lost. This expression is somewhat gender-specific..

  2. Australians do have an interestingly upside-down-under view on things, combined with a habit of choosing the earthiest possible from any list of alternatives.
    Working together with a great guy from Queensland on a week last month in an Austrian [not Australian] village, I heard him happily saying over a cold beer on a hot day “This is going off!”. He explained that something “going off” is high praise, similar to “just right”, “hitting the spot”, “just what I needed” etc.
    In Britain, of course, “going off” means food/drink going bad, stale, sour… so almost the opposite.

  3. Interestingly, several online glossaries seem to define the phrase as “someone telling you their troubles when you don’t want them to”. It is also defined as being insincere. But the first one seems to fit best with the actual phrase. Perhaps it morphed from there through use?

  4. I have never used this phrase before (as Alan said, it is probably a gender specific phrase). However, I think that it may simply reflect the Aussie slang fixation with pissing.
    My personal favourite is “to piss in the wind”, but we have a fine selection of phrases such as pissed off, getting pissed, piss head and piss weak, applicable in an infinite variety of ways.

  5. I have often wondered about this phrase too, Languagehat. Actually a boss once said it to me and I had to ask him what it meant (I had no idea it was Australian, I assumed it was English).
    It does seem absurd, given that someone pissing in your pocket is clearly not a compliment. Then again, it is also said that a bird pooping on you is actually good luck, so…

  6. I think it’s something to do with providing warmth

  7. dung beetle says:

    Aussie slang from another perpective. In the service they had a perverse sense of shock to upset the pommes, especially the toffee nose gezzers who had pototoes in their gob when speaking down their beak to us who know no better.. Payback time for Botany bay.

  8. ‘In what context could the phrase “piss in my pocket” come to have such a meaning?’
    If the, er, manly bits of you that allowed directional pissing were on fire in some way?

  9. In Arctic regions, the residents used to wear coats made of seal skin which had pockets that were mercifully watertight. When intricate repair work needed to be done, the thick mittens worn got in the way. But, because of the below-zero temperatures, there was a risk of frostbite for bare fingers so it became usual to urinate into the pockets to provide warmth for workers – who would periodically dip their fingers in the pockets to revive them. Members of the lower social orders strove to be available to provide this service to the more skilled. Hence, pissing in somebody’s pocket became a way of gaining favour.

  10. The practice was common in medieval europe.
    peasants would ingratiate themselves with the
    nobility by urinating into their pockets.
    The hands would then be warmed in the fliud.

  11. I have heard a saying “Don’t piss in my pockets & tell me it’s raining”. I wonder whether this is sort of a shortened/altered version of this which has retained the meaning? To me it might help explain the origin of that first definition that was given.

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