Glosso’s advent: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 10


Day 10

Take the mick (or Mickey)

“Rafe Turner, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said a fellow resident at the guest house had made the grim discovery after going to Rogers’ room to feed the rabbit. Rogers had earlier told the man he had killed it after microwaving it for three minutes but the man did not believe him and thought he was “taking the mickey”.” — The Independent, Nov 6 2014

“According to Mr Eagan, the witness added: “Brian was pretty drunk. He was taking the mickey out of his younger brother.” He said that Phillips initially pushed Brian off the stool. Mr Eagan said: “Then he [Brian] gets back up and continued to take the mickey out of his brother and then the incident took place. “There’s nothing worse than being taken the mickey out of by your own brother.” — Surrey Mirror, 13 Oct 2014

That’s what the Brits do when they’re making fun of you and laughing mercilessly at your expense.

It’s thought that the phrase is a shortened version of “take the Mickey Bliss”, which is Cockney rhyming slang for the slightly more vulgar “take the piss”. Who Mickey Bliss was and why the poor chap came to embody the Brits’ favorite past-time of taking the piss out of anyone and everyone we’ll probably never know. World Wide Words has the story.


Take the piss: “Men may fill them, but it takes a woman to take the piss out of a urinal. Or so Julian Spalding, the former director of Glasgow Museums, and the academic Glynn Thompson have claimed. The argument, which has been swooshing around the cistern of contemporary art criticism since the 1980s, is that Duchamp’s famous  artwork Fountain — a pissoir laid on its side — was actually the creation of the poet, artist and wearer of tin cans, Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven.” — The Guardian, 7 Nov 2014

According to World Wide Words, “it’s usually said that the phrase derives from an older one, piss-proud, which refers to having an erection when waking up in the morning … This developed into a figurative sense of somebody who had an exaggerated idea of his own importance. So to take the piss is to deflate somebody, to disabuse them of their mistaken belief that they are special.”