Posted by Smokey Stover on January 26, 2006
In Reply to: 'Pissing in the wind' posted by Victoria S Dennis on January 25, 2006
: : : : : : : 'Pissing in the wind' where does this phrase come from and what exactly does it mean? I thought it meant pointless but that would be more like 'pissing in the rain'. This would make it similar to 'drop in the ocean' - which does make sense!
: : : : : : I've heard (and said) "spitting in the wind" and "pissing in the ocean," but not "pissing in the wind." Not a common phrase to my knowledge.The first is a poor strategy, the second a quixotic gesture, but I'm puzzled about the phrase in question.
: : : : : What's puzzling about it? If you emend the phrase to "pissing into the wind," or if you actually do it, the consequences will be readily apparent. I think the point of the phrase is that if you make certain kinds of gesture, perhaps to show contempt, you had better know which way the wind is blowing. (If anyone is unsure what "into the wind" means, think "against the wind.") I'm not sure the original meaning presupposed that the putative pissing was a gesture of contempt or defiance, but it is obviously a possibility. Otherwise, why make a point of it? SS
: : : : You're right. I googled and found lots of "pissing into the wind" hits.
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: : : In the UK "pissing in the wind" is a common phrase for taking a futile unrealistic attitude. "Jack says he can do it!" "Nah, he's just pissing in the wind."
: : Correct me please, but is there not in the U.S. the phrase, "Whistling in the wind?" That would be whistling that no one heard, of course, and that would be futile. Or "Whistling to keep his spirits up," very obvious, and "Whistling past the graveyard." I know there's a difference between whistling and pissing, but Victoria's post reminded me. SS
: There's also "whistling *for* a wind". Sailors used to believe that whistling on board ship would provoke the wind to blow, and so whistling was forbidden unless the ship were becalmed, in which case the crew would whistle with all their might for a wind. This has given rise the the saying "you can whistle for it", meaning "you can hope for it and want it but you won't get it".
Just so. I think I've also heard the phrase "whistle up a storm," but perhaps not, since I'm not nautical nor nice. SS