Piss Take

Australian vernacular for an obstructionist joke - a joke whose butt can't reply for fear of making themselves look more ridiculous. "You'd argue about anything, wouldn't you?" is a very simple example. Australians have raised "taking the piss" to a high and stylized art. Be careful when talking to them that they don't take the piss out of you!

Avoid these kinds of people at all costs.

Yeah, that's it exactly!

Note also how PissTake(s) are used by Australians as banter - like the exchange here. This can be very confusing the first time - you'd imagine these people are trying to cut each other. They're not - they're generally trying to be polite in an antipodean fashion. They're a weird mob.

*pings tinney off wuss' forehead*

Seems, that the only sensible reply in such a case is a MuAnswer. E.g. I would answer "You'd argue about anything, wouldn't you?" with humor: "Ha ha", or meta-level: "Funny, try better.".

In the UK, it is a low-brow word for "satire".

The two cultures are very similar, and there is some overlap here.

Al Murray The Pub Landlord describes Australians as "Uber Cockneys", carefully tended by their parents until they reach the bar-tending age of 18, then launched into the world. Most of them seem to come to London, where indeed they serve in bars.

In Oz, a low-brow satire can be used to represent a high-brow PissTake, and the juxtaposition is often more effective for being incongruous. The famous Don Bradman quote, "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?" is the perfect example; the comment seems coarse but the context makes it brilliant.

The closest UK equivalent is probably one-upmanship ("If you're not one up, you're one down." -- Stephen Potter, ISBN 1559211903 ), but the Oz PissTake seems to have an element of affection that's absent in one-upmanship. Australians take the piss out of each other to feel at ease - all mates, nothing sacred and no-one who can't take a joke. One-upmanship sounds the same at first, but the effect is reversed - it's an assertion of pecking order, not a dismantling of it.

All Australian comedy centers around the PissTake, suspense leading up to the PissTake, and arch PissTake competitions. Australian comedy often fails to translate, even in the UK, for this reason. Successful Australian international comedians like BarryHumphries, CliveJames, and PaulHogan make savage changes in their acts when they go abroad simply to be understood. But if you want to understand Strines in their natal tongue, you must study the PissTake.

And, yes, of course, this is a PissTake too.

Ever since I first accepted the paradox of the WikiUncertaintyPrinciple and started to contribute to Wiki I've told others stories about how wonderful it is. The top favorite story from my own interactions was an early bruising encounter about TomGilb with an Australian by the name of JohnFarrell. Only now do I realize the power and relevance of the PissTake.

The full exchange has unfortunately been toned down and refactored a number of times but a significant remnant remains in GilbMeasurabilityPrinciple. I can no longer resist creating a WikiName out of the punchline. Notice what I take to be the classic PissTake from John:

"More respectfully this time ..." followed by " it sounds like a beancounter's wet dream"

Recounting the BeancountersWetDream interaction led to one of the funniest remarks from an Englishman that I have ever had the misfortune to hear in a business context. -- RichardDrake

I have two types of work colleagues - those that I drink with, and those that think I'm a loser. Even some Australians can't handle the PissTake - I think BrutalSarcasm runs strongly in my family. One of my favourite quotes is from DogBert - "Sometimes sarcasm helps us to think more clearly." -- JohnFarrell

So far, this page has talked about the noble aspects and traditions of taking the piss. These aspects and traditions are all very well, but, though still technically a strine, I have to say there is also a dark side to the PissTake.

When excellence is constantly derided, it becomes natural to distrust excellence. This is the TallPoppySyndrome. Australians laud the battler, the good-hearted bloke struggling to make ends meet. They have only suspicion, however, for someone following an ideal of excellence, because to do so is hypocritical. While self-deprecating and returning fire, the achiever must be secretly putting on airs and trying to do better than their mates. Such dissemblers are seen as not to be trusted.

Australians are known widely as a warm, broad-minded, laconic people. To the extent that national character is predictive, this is quite true. But in their native land, they're also given to pessimism, xenophobia, and CulturalCringe. Paradoxically, the need to keep good humor about PissTake(s) leads to insecurity; Australians will not credit foreigners that suggest Australia is not both materially and spiritually superior to all other countries. To do so would fail to take the piss. The jingoism of the 80's anthem, "I come from a land down-under" takes piss from the delusional thinking that follows from this. -- PeterMerel

There's a balance to be struck between having respect for people because of their character/ability/knowledge and their position/wealth/ancestry/title/education. Taking the piss out of someone is often an attempt to move the balance to the left. Shouting "TallPoppySyndrome" is (IMHO) an attempt to move the balance to the right. -- BenAveling

Yes, that's right, there is no such thing as the TallPoppySyndrome. That Merel wanker is always spouting about one damn thing or another. Expat scum ...

Careful: we Americans know what "wanker" means now!


Did anybody ever tell you what the gun/citizen ratio of the US is? Heh, heh.

Are you sure you know what wanker means now?

Related phrases are "swelled head" and "full of piss and wind". (Possibly in the sense piss==alcohol.) Thus, someone who is too full of themselves == someone swelled up with unrealistic self importance == someone who needs to have the piss taken out of them.

A related phrase is "to take someone down a rung".

Taking the piss isn't a criticism of pursuit of excellence. (No one would ever take the piss out of Don Bradman.) It's a criticism of people thinking that they're better than other people just because, for eg, they're richer. -- BenAveling

We may have to agree to disagree. I frequently see PissTakes where no one thinks they're better. We do it just as a kind of reverse etiquette. Gives the other bloke an opportunity to show they can take a joke and be a mate, and that's a good thing. But where it comes a cropper is if it's done by folk who feel insecure - they're not doing it to be kind, but only to feel better about themselves. Of course in such cases it's possible to turn the game about and PissTake a little man's complex ... but that's not really going to win friends. -- PeterMerel

Would you agree that this is a case where context matters? Two guys at a pub taking the piss out of each other, someone taking the piss out of their boss, and someone taking the piss out of the new kid are each different. In each case it's OneUp?-manship, but the difference in power makes quite a difference. -- BenAveling

To take the piss, there must be piss to take. Someone who is one-up has piss in them. Someone who maintains one-downness can take piss all day, and still have none for anyone else to take. -- PeterMerel

I'm still not clear on PissTake: is it the same as "busting on" someone in America?

That is, saying something non-complimentary (but funny) to their face, both to correct their attitude and to show that everyone's just friends here and we can take a joke? I didn't get busting until well into my teenage years, since my mother could practically have invented the phrase, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." (You don't want to meet the people she doesn't say anything at all about.) The difference between the surface meaning (nasty insult) and the deep meaning (you're one of us) finally dawned on me eventually. Anyway, is this different? Some real-life examples of taking the piss would be helpful. -- GeorgePaci

You can only take the piss if your morality depends on each person's capability to be a good friend to others - what the commonwealth folk call mateship, or "good bloke"-ness. In the US, morality has nothing to do with mateship, so you can't expose anyone for not being a good bloke. In Australia, you can even take the piss out of someone for not being an impartially good bloke to everyone. For example, nepotism can be described by saying that so-and-so is some powerful person's "little mate". And observing that can be an effective PissTake.

Yes, we know it doesn't translate. The SapirWhorfHypothesis at work.

It's delivered and received much the same as "Your mama..." jokes in urban America. -- MichaelLeach

Although not always ... often the best PissTakes are delivered with all due seriousness - this is most effective where there is an IronyGulf. Just as you start to despair to the seriousness of the situation will everyone suddenly burst into guffaws.

I went to the US, and, about to drive a couple of yanks somewhere, I suddenly remarked "Hey, the steering wheel's on the left!" There was a pause, and the eventual reply "uh...should one of us drive?" Somehow the IronyGulf and self-deprecating PissTake got interpreted as mortal stupidity.

So one of the following happened:
  1. They didn't get the joke.
  2. They didn't like the joke.
  3. You didn't get their joke.
-- AalbertTorsius.

However, even this form is only used for those that take things too seriously -- thus the overly keen apprentice will find himself sent off to the hardware store for striped paint or left-handed hammers, while the bumbling tourist wouldn't be.

See WikiAndProgrammers for a sacrilegious PissTake on Nice Guy and Programmers

Taking the Piss has been in use in Ireland for a long, long time, but I won't claim it the originator, and since Australia and Ireland have such close ties, it could have been simultaneous. Well you know what they say about Aussies, "Australians are Irish who got caught" :)

.....but look at the bright side, the grandkids got to grow up in a sunny climate, full of opportunity with only a few british to bother us. -- BenMinton?

I'm an American (Irish who escaped) who is more often a victim than a deliverer of a PissTake, especially since I often respond by not shutting up early enough. I've tried to respond with good humor in the past, but recently I blew up at a co-worker for executing a grand uber-combination PissTake on me in the presence of a cute female co-worker. I wonder whether this reflects my inability to take a joke, or is there a code-of-honor among takers of piss that he should have adhered to in front of the lady? Regardless, the incident seems to have put a great damper on my social standing in my department. Have I resigned to being the OmegaMale?? The piss-taker in question, btw, is an AlphaMale who seems to thrive on such psychological advantages.

That sounds less like a PissTake and more like a PeckingOrder. Your AlphaMale would appear to be using the insults as a form of dominance behavior. As OmegaMale? you are perfectly situated to take piss out of every Aussie in the office. You simply have to wait for someone to try to take piss from you, and then observe it. For example, "Yeah, Bob, cultural imperialism has been very good to you." "I'm not certain I'm doing it right, Bruce. After all, I work with you."

A PissTake can be very funny. And it can involve mockery. But those things aren't the essential. A PissTake is about deflating ego and so resolving tension. It reveals the vanity of contentious (or potentially contentious) folk so that they're enabled to see themselves as ridiculous, and so find a gentler way to interact. The result of the Australian cultural discipline of taking the piss is MateShip.

Oh yes, teasing can be very funny, with everyone laughing including the teased person. It's just that other forms of humour end up being funnier overall since it takes a lot of skill, practice, and timing to make a really funny tease, but anyone can participate in storytelling humour with good results.

Uh, good results? Ever seen an Australian sitcom? (PissTake)

Well, no, but I probably should have said usually with good results, meaning that you don't have to be exceptionally witty to make a funny contribution to the story. Teasing is much harder to get right. I'd wager the same is true of a PissTake.

It seems the PissTake is simply ugly verbal abuse and ridicule. Mocking people when they are vulnerable as mentioned in the (deleted) story above about the senior sniper missing is cowardly and weak. To make yourself feel better at the expense of the feelings of someone else is a sign of very low self-esteem. The piss take encourages an environment of mediocrity and fear where vulnerability and individuality, the very things that make us human, are mocked. How poor, how ugly, how sad.

That story missed the point, mate. The PissTake isn't about taking advantage of or mocking anyone. It's an expression of affection. Knowing that a mate has piss to take, and taking it, or having piss and happily letting it go, you can only do that with love. Teasing/mocking doesn't take piss; it is piss to take. For example, the marksman could simply have responded, "that's not the kind of sniping we're here for, mate", and won instant admiration.

I never understood how anyone could find the old Dean Martin "roasts" even remotely funny, even for a couple of years after I had first read this page. Then, today, re-reading it again, it hit me.

I'm sorry. But after reading all this I still don't know what the heck a PissTake is! Can't someone give me a good example?

The pisstake was once an element of Australian interaction. Affectionate, humorous and used in moderation. Now, it is the only element of Australian interaction, and seems to have replaced normal conversation between people. And it has fallen to levels of employing the most hurtful insults you can conceive and delivering them as a pisstake. There are no verbal limits in the new Australian Joke culture.

Indeed, it has gotten so bad just in the last year for some reason (reality TV, the War on Terror?) that Australians seem to be constantly engaging one another, in the home, at work and any minor interactions by taking the piss constantly. if you do not indulge and try and remain mature and harmonious, you tend to be singled out quickly and attacked. In this way, it reminds me of being back at school again.

For any who may be thinking of visiting our fine country, the rules of engagement from talking to a workmate, to getting into a cab, to picking up a girl now are -

A. Attack first verbally - you will put them on the back foot.

B. Show no mercy. Seeing you have cut them by the dulled look in their eyes, or that slight stiffening of the posture means they will be looking for revenge with their own Pisstake as sson as they can. They will respect you eventually for your verbal assault.

C Use backstabbing, countering, moral highground and a dismissive attitude when necessary.

D. Most importantly, if you get nailed laugh it off immediately. Move away, change the conversation until the hormones are normal and then re-enter - with a joke about something they consider personal. Race, appearance, and orientation are good ones and time proven.

E laughter should be harsh, maintaining eye contact with a frown. Australians look like they are in pain when they laugh these days. Too much emotion in the face is a sign of weakness.

F. Do not move the head or fidget when talking or walking past other people. Heads held at an angle show vulnerability. Even for tough guys, the old tilt your head against the back of the neck is very much a no no. You will appear to be trying to be too tough, and will be open for much pisstaking.

E Check your face for frowning and grimacing if you have 'lost' the last few pisstake battles. Calm your features. Otherwise it is a sign to others you are down and out at the moment and can be pisstaken easily. F. On that note use small pisstakes to build yourself back up again if need be.

Incidentally, the good achieved by the anti harassment and political correctedness wave sweeping the 1990's has been rendered obsolete by the new level of pisstake that emerged in 2002/2003 or so.

You can insult a gay, black or asian as long as you roll it into a good pisstake. Anger at any response is not allowed at all, or rather showing any anger which means 'you lost'.

The boss can harass his secretary and abuse his workers as long as he is taking the piss. Aussies know exactly what I am talking about here. Anger is strictly forbidden in the new millennium here. You may not tell someone they have gone too far, or explain you don't appreciate their antics. Sincere apologies became a fed up,"okaaaay then" eye rolling 'pisstake' about a year ago. I have not seen them since.

I think anger is a useful tool for describing limits of interaction, as long as it is not abused. It teaches people limits to their antics. You can be as cutting as you like now- everyone is now forced to accept it.

Argumentativeness has also gone through the roof. Classical 'verbal abuse tactics', such as countering and disregarding your peers comments, are also a useful skill and very prevalent. Australia is a verbal battelfield at the moment. The days of laid back affectionate pisstaking are gone - we are under some kind of epidemic.

Everything from TV, to the radio to talking to your mate are now pisstakes. People feel uncomfortable with normal conversation now since they are waiting for the first pisstake to land. I see stressed body language, anguished expressions and exaggerated movements(aggression or submission) everywhere I look. I don't think we are enjoying our new pisstakes that much.

It never, ever, ceases to amaze me how Australians have found it necessary over the last 2 or 3 decades to invent this fake culture. Anyone who spends 5 minutes in England will come across 'taking the piss', 'piss taking', etcetera. It is so normal there in any decent sized city that no one would bother to analyse it. But Australians seem to think that if they do it then that means they invented it. Also, after 40 years of living in various bits of Australia (mostly Wollongong, Sydney and bits of Queensland) I have never, until this page, heard anyone say Australians are Irish who got caught. Where is the logic there? And why do so many Australians feel they must pretend to be convict descended? The vast majority aren't. And who was the turkey who said that there is no such thing as the 'tall-poppy-syndrome'? Never actually lived there have you mate.

although, much like cricket and rugby, they are often better at it than us even though we may have been doing it well before them


Well the pom above me really does seem like he needs to have ownership over 'takin the piss' go for it mate we couldn't give a shit who started it. We just do it better than the poms. Oh Yeah I'm not 'convict decended' either, never claimed to be, Scottish actually, Campbell Clan, should've kicked the poms out of Scotland years ago, but that's a whole other thread!

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