Alan Johnson, the health secretary who is a possible successor to the ever more inept Gordon Brown, is quoted in the Guardian today as having “shared with a fundraising dinner one of his favourite words, a medieval term for someone making it to the end of a road without being covered in the slops thrown from the windows: “I want the leadership of the party to remain unbepissed,” he said.

“Johnson will not like the fact that right now, things at the top are a little damp,” the Guardian adds.

There’s a lot to be said for a politician who uses words like “unbepissed.” I can’t imagine Gordon Brown using such a word, or David Cameron for that matter.

Actually, I’m not sure if Johnson has got its meaning quite right. The Oxford English Dictionary has just one entry for it under the prefix un-:

a1550 Image Hypocr. III. 172 in Skelton’s Wks. (1843) II. 435/1 He is sutch a scolde, That no play may hym holde For anger vnbepyst.

Which doesn’t have a huge amount to do with getting out of the way of pisspots as you saunter down Cheapside.

The OED doesn’t list “bepissed” but it does list “bepiss” under the prefix be-:

1658 FORD Witch of Edm. IV. i, Ready to bepiss themselves with laughing. 1764 T. BRIDGES Homer Travest. (1797) II. 16 Ye all bepiss’d yourselves for fear.

The OED is accessible online to anyone with a British public library card, by the way, which is absolutely terrific.