Dr Jo Oranje
As a New Zealander, it is perfectly conceivable that I might feel pissed off at having to piss off when it pisses down while I’m on the piss at a piss up. And if I’m unexpectedly asked by a medical professional to provide a urine sample, I might retort: “You’re taking the piss!” If my doctor or nurse speaks English as an additional language (EAL) and is unfamiliar with this idiom, she might interpret this literally: “Yes, that’s exactly my intention.” But this assumes the practitioner is aware that ‘piss’, in this context, is a noun. In fact, ‘piss’ is one of those complex English words that can operate in many word categories. In the sentences above, piss has taken roles in verb phrases, noun phrases and an adjectival phrase. I didn’t pluck this one word out of the air (or pull it out of my finger, as my Polish neighbour says).