Piss on you from a high oak tree. What a powerful way to express contempt. That’s why this idiom works it’s way into my conversation whenever the need arises to tell someone to go to hell.
And the need does arise.
I had heard people say “piss on you” before, but until I read Mary Karr’s haunting memoir The Liar’s Club, I had never heard the phrase so embellished. In the book, which is both funny and heartbreaking, a little girl of 7 or 8 uses this expression. It’s been so long now since I first read Karr’s story of her childhood, I remember little else, but this one expression stuck with me.
So why is “piss on you from a high oak tree” better than your run-of-the-mill “go to the hot place?”
Imagine that you are so mad at someone you could spit. You might feel a little threatened. You might feel a little threatening. You want to express your absolute disdain for this person and maybe even humiliate them just a little bit.
That’s when you picture yourself climbing up high among the mighty oak tree’s branches — branches that have remained strong in the face of storm after storm, just like you will. You climb higher and higher while your mortal enemy grows smaller and smaller. You find the perfect branch, poised directly over your aggressor and their little hissy fit. You wait for the perfect moment when they are looking up at you, still raging on, then you let loose.
Stunned, your enemy slinks away demeaned, defeated, damp. You pound your chest in victory. You come back down to earth feeling mighty — just like the oak.
Or maybe that’s just me. But that’s why I say piss on you from a high oak tree. It’s better than hell every day of the week.
(This picture is of the Constitution Oak, a live oak tree in Geneva, Alabama believed to be one of the oldest and largest trees in the state.)