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Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekly Words No. 13


The  urban dictionary defines "On the piss" as:

1.    on the piss                                     
verb: to be drinking alcohol
(see also "piss = beer" and "piss head = alcoholic")
He's really on the piss tonight!


2.    On the piss                                    
 1. Out with the boys/girls drinking lots of grog. 
 2. Built slightly out of whack, skewif, out of sync, not straight. 
"You smell like you've been on the piss all night"
Boss- "That wall is on the piss, fix it"
Carpenter- "You need to speak to Johnny, he fucking built it"

3.    on the piss                                     
 when something is not straight, level or aligned properly.
usually as a result of laziness, poor workmanship or being under the influence.
"Gee Michelle, Angelo's parking is really on the piss today"

Could the origin of that old Aussie expression, 'a night on the piss' explain why when we drink a lot of alcohol we 'piss' a lot and the two be closely related behaviours?

 Well, let’s read what Dr Karl,  Dr Karl's "Great Moments In Science"  has to say about “Why does drinking alcohol cause dehydration?”

 Dr Karl at a University of Sydney open day on 26 August 2006 

(Born 1948 (age 63–64). Helsingborg, Sweden, Residence Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Karl Kruszelnicki’s media career began in 1981, when he started presenting 'Great Moments In Science ' on double-j to pay his way through medical school. Since then, his media career has exploded from radio to include TV, books, newspapers, magazines, scripting, professional speaking, and of course, the Net. His science homepage (which has well over 4 million words on it) gets about 700,000 pages downloaded each week.)


We humans have been making and drinking alcohol for thousands of years.

It's a strange liquid. We can use it as a fuel or germ-killer, use it to preserve human heads or other body parts in jars for years on end, or to strip oil stains from the garage floor.

And yet, in small quantities we use alcohol as a social lubricant.

But over time, too much alcohol can set off diabetes and malnutrition, and diseases of the central nervous system and the liver.

A short-term side-effect is excessive urination. In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, the porter says that alcohol promotes "nose-painting, sleep and urine".

But even today we still don't fully understand how alcohol causes this excessive urination.
After all, beer is about 95 per cent water and only five per cent alcohol. And the liver converts that five per cent of alcohol into roughly the same mass of water and some carbon dioxide.

So if you drink 200 millilitres of beer, the end result is 200 millilitres of water. But you don't urinate just 200 millilitres of urine. No! You urinate a total of about 320 millilitres of urine.
So in general, each shot of alcohol makes you urinate an extra 120 millilitres of urine on top of your normal urine output.

Where does that extra 120 millilitres come from?

To understand what's going on, you need a bit of background knowledge.

First, the body pays special attention to alcohol. It's a small molecule and gets very quickly through the walls of the gut into the bloodstream and then to the brain. Second, if you weigh 60 kilograms, you generate about 60 millilitres of urine each hour. And for 80 kilograms, about 80 millilitres per hour, and so on. Third, we humans seem to prefer to drink our alcohol in 10 gram lumps. Ten grams of alcohol is about 12.5 millilitres (but you can call it 10 ml and still be fairly accurate). So each glass of beer, wine, or spirits has about 10 grams of alcohol. Fourth, alcohol interferes with the mechanism that regulates the water levels in our body.

So now, a little anatomy and physiology. In your brain is a small gland called the pituitary gland. It is divided into two sections: the front; and the back. The back section is called the posterior pituitary. One of the hormones made by the posterior pituitary gland is called vasopressin, or anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). Diuresis is a fancy word meaning urination.

Now suppose that you are really dehydrated. So the volume of water in your body is low. But you still have just as many salts floating in this reduced volume of water. So these salts are now more concentrated in the reduced volume of water that you have when you are dehydrated.

Your body has detectors that can sense both the saltiness of your water, and the volume of the water. If these detectors reckon that you are dehydrated, they send a signal to the posterior pituitary gland, which starts pumping out ADH. The job of ADH is to stop you urinating, so you hang on to your precious water. You reduce your normal rate of making urine.

Alcohol does the opposite. It reduces how much ADH you make, so it increases how much urine you produce. Each shot of alcohol that you drink forces your kidneys to generate an extra 120 millilitres of urine on top of the normal 60–80 millilitres per hour.

"Aha!", you cleverly think to yourself. "Why don't I just drink lots of water to compensate for the extra 120 millilitres?"

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. You'll hang on to only about half or a third of the extra water you drink. Most of it will go out in your urine, and you'll still end up dehydrated at the end of a night of drinking.

Mind you, you'll be a bit better off than if you didn't drink any extra water at all, but you'll still be dehydrated.

Could this extra urination caused by alcohol consumption be the origin of that old Aussie expression, 'a night on the piss'?


4 comments:

North of Wiarton & South of the Checkerboard said...

...and to get "drunk" is to go on a "piss up", LOL I think I would also agree with the extra urination explanation, John.

"Just Me" way over here in Canada land

JohnD said...

Yep! - As pissed as a newt Too drunk to walk straight. Reference to the natural wobbling gait of a newt.

See also newted, pissed and the 'Spoonerism' of "As nissed as a pewt"
Look at Mike, he's as pissed as a newt.

North of Wiarton & South of the Checkerboard said...

It is all rather quite a "pissy" topic is it not? LOL

JohnD said...

It's fairly 'common' language in working class circles in Australia -'getting pissed/on the piss'; 'A night on the piss'; 'This (drink) is pure piss'; 'Don't turn up pissed!'; 'He came home really pissed'; 'I was really pissed-off by his/her attitude'; 'Gee! That'd make you really pissed (off)'; etc