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Etymology of ‘Pee Like a Racehorse’

The Kentucky Derby is this weekend, and fancy hats, desperate bets, and odd horse names have people off to the races. But if you’ve had to relieve yourself recently, you may have wondered where the phrase I’ve got to pee like a racehorse came from.

Euphemisms for urination are sometimes bizarre and incomprehensible, but this one may be more obvious to anyone who has actually seen a horse pee. If you haven’t, you’ll find that it’s quite the spectacle; large mammals like horses produce quite a lot of fluid. The matter of racehorses in particular is still contended, though.

Some trace the logic back to a diuretic given to racehorses called furosemide. It has been used for many dubious reasons, but one side effect is a ‘flushing of the system’ which would impress anyone.

While this particular case might make the urinary behaviors of racehorses a feat to behold, others insist that it has nothing to do with racehorses specifically and that the addition of race was just a “rhetorical flourish” used to emphasize the urgency of the matter.

It should be noted that in some circles, additional qualifiers are included such as Russian racehorse or Chinese racehorse. These don’t seem to have any significance other than including a classic touch of racial insensitivity. During the Cold War, Russia took the brunt of western ire, and in present times China has fulfilled that role.