Piss Poor

Piss poor can mean very poor (no money) or very poor (shoddy or bad quality – goods or services), so by way of example;-

“He didn’t have a penny to his name, a nice chap but piss poor!”   Or,   “the lawyer was awful; piss poor advice” or “the plastering was uneven and a really piss poor finish”

The misconception is that this phrase was used hundreds of years ago when people collected and sold pee (urine or piss) for use in chemical processes, like tanning and dyeing. But this can’t be proved and written references are much later, the earliest in print being 1946.

The common idiom, ‘so poor he didn’t have a pot to piss in’ does seem to have its roots in the act of peeing, or urinating and is probably much older.  The complete phrase is less commonly used; ‘so poor he didn’t have a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of‘. This idiom does mean poor in describing a lack of money. The term is associated with the common use at the time of a chamber pot, kept under the bed, and often emptied directly out of an upstairs window onto the street below; rather unpleasant for street users!

Colin Babb – Lendfair

Hand Over Fist

This expression is normally used to suggest speed or a large amount (or both!) and in modern use always of money. It can also be used in certain context to refer to the ease of making money or the rate of spend.  So a couple of examples;-

“He was making money, hand over fist” or “the company was losing money hand over fist” or “she was seen spending cash, hand over fist”

So you can see it can be used both positively and negatively. But where did this idiom come from? Most ascribe its origins to nautical practice on the early sailing ships when deck hands would haul lines or ropes manually by a rhythmic action of pulling, one hand over the other, some suggest in similar vein it was sailors climbing rope ladders. The clenched hand holding the rope would make a fist and the open hand would be moving to the next rung or further along the rope; so “hand over fist”.

Tomorrow another monetary idiom; to be poor and very poor! And this one doesn’t have its roots in sailing but an industrial need.

 Colin Babb – Lendfair

Three Parts To The Wind

Most English speakers use this expression to mean drunk, as in

“He drank eight pints and staggered off, three parts to the wind”

Consensus suggests the term originated in English sailing lore where ‘Sheets’ are the correct sailing term for the ropes that hold and control a sail. On old, larger sailing ships there were typically four sheets used to control the sail, therefore if one broke or became slack it would send the other three, and the sail, to the wind, making the boat lurch around like a sailor who’d been at the rum! Or drunk!

More often in common English we use the expression “pissed” when referring to a drunk, not to be confused with the American use, which is short for pissed off – ie upset. Sometimes the word pissed will be expanded to ‘pissed as a newt’ or ‘pissed as a fart’ all seem to derive from the expression piss-drunk which has been shortened to pissed. This means a person is so intoxicated they would either urinate (piss) frequently or inappropriately/without a care, such as in a doorway or alleyway – pissed. The reference to newt is thought to be the side to side swagger of a newt when walking and the reference to a fart meaning the person was so drunk that they would fart without care or embarrassment.

So, drink in moderation and walk tall and straight! Then you are simply tipsy.

Colin Babb – Lendfair

Slush Fund

We are all familiar with the term ‘Slush Fund’.  Most probably associating it with a pot of money, hidden from view or secret and used by agencies or corporations to fund illegitimate activities or perhaps clandestine or less savoury purposes whilst not having to account for them. Often used to buy influence or favour, particularly in a political way. Usually the source of such funds is unknown or untraceable. But did you know the term is believed to originate from a sea-fairing expression dating back to the 1700’s?

The ships cooks of the time would prepare food for the crew and the residual sludgey mix of grease and fat or “slush”, usually from pork, would be secretly stored during the voyage. Upon their return to port, the cooks would sell the slush to candle makers for cash, the resulting monies being their ‘slush fund(s)’.

Tomorrow; a nautical expression commonly used to describe a drunk, and no; it’s not pissed!

Colin Babb – Lendfair