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The Search For Mickey Bliss

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  • The Search For Mickey Bliss

    The phrase "taking the mickey" will be familiar to anyone whose first language is English (on this side of the Atlantic at least) but may not be so to those for whom English is not a first language. It is sometimes claimed (probably erroneously) that this is a denigration of the Irish but some claim that it is back slang/butcher's slang/rhyming slang and is an abbreviation of "taking the Mickey Bliss", with Bliss having been supposedly a music hall artiste. The problem is that no music hall artiste of that name has ever been identified. I have therefore tried to locate this individual - if indeed he ever existed.

    I have not found a music hall artiste of that name but I have unearthed one possible candidate. On 25th January 1866, in Amsterdam, Wolff and Rachel Blitz welcomed a son into the world. His name was Michael. Sometime soon afterwards the Blitz family moved to London where Michael was baptised on 5th July 1874 in Bethnal Green. In the 1881 census Wolff and Michael were living in Camberwell. In June of 1883 young Michael was taken on as a ticket collector by the East & West India Docks Railway and started work at the Crystal Palace Station. This didn't last, however, and on 1st November of the same year young Michael was dismissed for "Disobeying Orders". I haven't yet identified Michael in the 1891 census but in 1901 he had anglicised his surname and, as Michael Bliss, was living at 32,Tachbrook Street with his wife (Edie?). The script in the census record is terrible but there is a street of that name in Pimlico. On that occasion Michael describes his occupation as "artiste". He was not, so far as I can ascertain, a musical hall artiste because later entries in the USA make it clear that he was an artist (i.e. someone who painted pictures). On 30th April 1904 Michael Bliss arrived in New York aboard the Lucania and lived in the USA for the remainder of his life. On this occasion, and when he applied for naturalisation a few days later, he described himself as an "artist". On the 1915 census he was an artist in New York. In 1920 he was a Picture Peddler (sic) in Washington DC. By 1930 (the year of his death) he was working back in New York, with an Amusement Park Concession where he worked as a Free Hand Artist. Was it perhaps an artist who styled himself an "artiste" who was immortalised in rhyming slang?
    Last edited by Bridewell; 03-28-2021, 05:16 PM.
    "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

  • #2
    I've notes there's a page claiming usage of the phrase in 1901 (and referencing it).
    That would seem to quash your theory as Bliss had only then begin to use Bliss?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
      I've notes there's a page claiming usage of the phrase in 1901 (and referencing it).
      That would seem to quash your theory as Bliss had only then begin to use Bliss?
      Not necessarily. We don't know when he started using the Bliss surname. 1901 is just the first use of it on the census.
      "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

      Comment


      • #4
        He seems an unlikely candidate, given you need a degree in genealogy to uncover his identity.
        Maybe Eamonn Holmes is right that the term is racist against the Irish. Doubt that too.
        I prefer to think that "taking the piss" derives from a schoolboy/girl corruption of the Greek παιζω (pie-zoh) common in Homer, meaning "I tease, make fun of".
        And then would it be so outlandish to see 'mickey' as a further in-joke along the same lines from ομειχω (o-make-oh) meaning literally "I piss".
        OK, I'll disappear now.

        Comment


        • #5
          Michael Blitz was an artist who called himself "Michael Bliss" and an "artiste". That might have come across as a little pretentious down Pimlico way, don't you think?
          "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bridewell View Post
            The phrase "taking the mickey" will be familiar to anyone whose first language is English (on this side of the Atlantic at least) but may not be so to those for whom English is not a first language. It is sometimes claimed (probably erroneously) that this is a denigration of the Irish but some claim that it is back slang/butcher's slang/rhyming slang and is an abbreviation of "taking the Mickey Bliss", with Bliss having been supposedly a music hall artiste. The problem is that no music hall artiste of that name has ever been identified. I have therefore tried to locate this individual - if indeed he ever existed.

            I have not found a music hall artiste of that name but I have unearthed one possible candidate. On 25th January 1866, in Amsterdam, Wolff and Rachel Blitz welcomed a son into the world. His name was Michael. Sometime soon afterwards the Blitz family moved to London where Michael was baptised on 5th July 1874 in Bethnal Green. In the 1881 census Wolff and Michael were living in Camberwell. In June of 1883 young Michael was taken on as a ticket collector by the East & West India Docks Railway and started work at the Crystal Palace Station. This didn't last, however, and on 1st November of the same year young Michael was dismissed for "Disobeying Orders". I haven't yet identified Michael in the 1891 census but in 1901 he had anglicised his surname and, as Michael Bliss, was living at 32,Tachbrook Street with his wife (Edie?). The script in the census record is terrible but there is a street of that name in Pimlico. On that occasion Michael describes his occupation as "artiste". He was not, so far as I can ascertain, a musical hall artiste because later entries in the USA make it clear that he was an artist (i.e. someone who painted pictures). On 30th April 1904 Michael Bliss arrived in New York aboard the Lucania and lived in the USA for the remainder of his life. On this occasion, and when he applied for naturalisation a few days later, he described himself as an "artist". On the 1915 census he was an artist in New York. In 1920 he was a Picture Peddler (sic) in Washington DC. By 1930 (the year of his death) he was working back in New York, with an Amusement Park Concession where he worked as a Free Hand Artist. Was it perhaps an artist who styled himself an "artiste" who was immortalised in rhyming slang?
            Couldn’t Mickey Bliss just be rhyming slang Colin?

            Regards

            Herlock



            Chairman of the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To The Old Established Theories.

            Comment


            • #7
              Copied and pasted this from a site - Taking the piss is reported as originating in the UK in the 1930s and 'taking the Mickey' probably came not long afterwards. The first form of the phrase in print - as 'take the mike' - comes from 1935, in George Ingram's Cockney Cavalcade:
              "He wouldn't let Pancake 'take the mike' out of him."

              The precise wording - 'take the Mickey' doesn't appear in print until a few years later. The earliest I've found as yet is in J. Henry's Who lie in Gaol, 1952:
              "She's a terror. I expect she'll try and take the mickey out of you all right. Don't you stand for nothin'."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
                I've notes there's a page claiming usage of the phrase in 1901 (and referencing it).
                That would seem to quash your theory as Bliss had only then begin to use Bliss?
                Think you have trumped me Kattrup, just seen that quote myself

                Comment


                • #9
                  Could'Taking the mickey' have a relation to Mickey Finn.In American slang it did,i believe, refer to a doctered drink.

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                  • #10
                    Taking the piss - Wikipedia
                    My name is Dave. You cannot reach me through Debs email account

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by harry View Post
                      Could'Taking the mickey' have a relation to Mickey Finn.In American slang it did,i believe, refer to a doctered drink.


                      Mickey Finn (drugs) - Wikipedia
                      My name is Dave. You cannot reach me through Debs email account

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                      • #12
                        Exactly DJA. A drugged drink.

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                        • #13
                          Suspect Blotchy pulled that on Mary Kelly.
                          Chloral HYDrate is a nasty drug.RL Stevenson (Major Smith's cousin) had a particular dislike of it.
                          She might have been singing in a blackout before she lost consciousness.Blotchy leaves and Jack takes over while Hutchinson keeps watch.
                          My name is Dave. You cannot reach me through Debs email account

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

                            Couldn't Mickey Bliss just be rhyming slang Colin?
                            That's what it's said to be, with the mickey in question being (supposedly) a music hall artiste named Mickey Bliss. No-one has ever located such an individual but it struck me as a very specific reference. I figured there was no harm in seeing if there was anyone of that name who had actually been described as an artiste of some sort. Probably a coincidence but there was a London-based Mickey Bliss who described himself as an 'artiste' (although that's not what he actually was).
                            "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Darryl Kenyon View Post
                              Copied and pasted this from a site - Taking the piss is reported as originating in the UK in the 1930s and 'taking the Mickey' probably came not long afterwards. The first form of the phrase in print - as 'take the mike' - comes from 1935, in George Ingram's Cockney Cavalcade:
                              "He wouldn't let Pancake 'take the mike' out of him."

                              The precise wording - 'take the Mickey' doesn't appear in print until a few years later. The earliest I've found as yet is in J. Henry's Who lie in Gaol, 1952:
                              "She's a terror. I expect she'll try and take the mickey out of you all right. Don't you stand for nothin'."
                              If "taking the mike" is the earlier version it does suggest that it's nothing to to with denigration of the Irish which, as I'm part-Irish, I'm quite pleased about. If it's rhyming slang there has to be a second word 'cos mike doesn't rhyme with piss. "Take the mike" and "take the mickey" could both have referred, originally, to a real person of that name. I acknowledge that the vote is against Michael Blitz/Bliss being that individual but thanks to all who considered the possibility worthy of discussion - however briefly.
                              "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

                              Comment

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