The Corner

A Rank Bouquet of Meanings

Many years ago, I became aware that “pissed” meant one thing in America, another thing in Britain. One night in London, I asked a man for directions. He said, “Sir, I’m pissed.” He didn’t look angry, though. What he was, was drunk.

L’affaire Depardieu is a little bit murky. Some reports say that a drunken Depardieu demanded to go to the lavatory, was forbidden by flight attendants, became quite irritated, and then relieved himself in — and on — the aisle. So “pissed” applied all the way around (if those reports are true).

By the way, I had an opportunity to review Depardieu last year. At the Salzburg Festival, he performed in Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible (the oratorio version by Stasevich). I wrote,

Speaking the role of Ivan was Gérard Depardieu, the veteran French actor. And he spoke in Russian, demonstrating his versatility, or at least his adventurousness. Taking the stage, he was limping and very stout. The audience sort of sucked in its breath. Depardieu was Falstaffian, but without the mirth: He seemed all grimness. He appeared unwell and uncomfortable. But when the bell rang, his theatrical command was there. This is every inch, and pound, a pro. He did rather a lot of shouting — but then, he was Ivan the Terrible. “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” Depardieu seemed to be saying, “I’m Ivan the Terrible, and I’ll shout if I want to.” 

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