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What is a "pisserroo" in the following passage?

(Boys in the slum see a girl piss for the first time)
She stoops over. We watch her close.
"Wow!"
"Ain't that something, Harry?!" Ding Dong says.
"It sure is! I never seen nothing like that before."
"It's a real pisserroo!" Arnie says.

Charles Perry, Portrait of a Young Man Drowning

I understand that "pisser" is a person who pisses, but I am not sure what "pisserroo" means.

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  • Pisserroo is probably the final outcome.
    – user 66974
    Sep 5, 2022 at 11:06
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    It's a one-off "nonce-word" with no precise meaing. I just searched Google Books for pisseroo, where it's only found in Portrait of a Young Man Drowning. It occurs in at least two other contexts (obviously Perry likes it! :) where it's used to indicate approval (once of Harry, and once of Arnie by a different speaker). Assume it means something like a real doozy (an "impressive" person, act, or sight). Sep 5, 2022 at 11:10
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  • I wondered if it was a play on a real pipperoo, which is a line from the 1942 hit song "I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo". The novel was written in 1962, so the author likely would have known about the song. But apparently it's set in the Great Depression, so that would have been an anachronism, possibly accidental. NGrams knows only a couple citations of pipperoo before 1942, and only back to 1939.
    – Nate Eldredge
    Sep 5, 2022 at 21:03
  • In that context there's a chance that "pisserroo" refers to the act (action), the dousing of everything with urine, but most likely it refers to the entire area of the mid-section surrounding the urethra; young boys not necessarily knowing the nomenclature of the individual parts, and only being interested in seeing it (the whole area of the female mid-section, since there are no breasts to see). - No source or links, so not an answer, just a guess.
    – Rob
    Sep 6, 2022 at 8:01

1 Answer 1

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"Pisseroo" or "Pisserroo" is a variant of "pisser", a slang term for something very bad. "Pisser" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "one that is inferior, difficult, or unpleasant" and by Cambridge as "something that is of very bad quality".

"Pisseroo" is a humorous development of "pisser", using the "-eroo" suffix which Dictionary.com defines (based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2022) as:

a suffix that creates familiar, usually jocular variations of semantically more neutral nouns; normally added to monosyllabic bases, or merged with bases ending in -er: flopperoo; smackeroo; switcheroo.

"Pisseroo" evidently follows the same logic.

An example from A Hall of Mirrors, Robert Stone, 1997, a novel by a New York-born novelist set in New Orleans.

"Boy," he said. "This is a pisser. This is a pisseroo, Reinhardt. I wish I had your job today."

The Cambridge Dictionary definition cited above also notes that "pisser" can be used ironically for something good, so it's possible you'll see "pisseroo" in a similarly ironic sense, but generally it means something bad.

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    Charles Perry is the only writer indexed by Google Books who spells it with a double rr. But looking at his other two usages again, it's obvious that in at least one of them, You're a pisserroo! means You're a complete arsehole!. So in the cited context I guess the intended sense is That's nasty! Sep 5, 2022 at 11:17
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    Actually, whether it's good or bad depends on the dialect ... I believe that pisser for something good was quite common at at one point, in some regions of the U.S. (See the Wiktionary entry for wicked pissah (the adjective wicked and the non-rhotic pissah pretty much locate this in Eastern New England).
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 5, 2022 at 11:44
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    @PeterShor: Pissah is also used as an adjective. "How was the Boston concert?" "It was totally pissah!"
    – Robusto
    Sep 5, 2022 at 15:45
  • Relevant to note: the book in OP’s question, Portrait of a young man drowning, is set in the slums of Brooklyn during the Great Depression; and that is roughly the author’s own upbringing, so the language is most likely pretty precisely accurate. Sep 6, 2022 at 8:56

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