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Urine and Ammonia

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27463.  Wed Oct 19, 2005 5:00 pm Reply with quote

The use of urine in dyeing processes has been mentioned a couple of times in QI. In one series Stephen said "urine contains ammonia". This is wrong.
QIingly I've heard that the term "Taking the piss", originates in Newcastle, where buckets of the original amber nectar where collected from back gardens and stored in tanks until it went off. Bacterial action produced ammonia (among other chemicals), which was then used as a mordant (dye fixing agent) in the textile industry.
I just don't believe that stuff mentioned in a recent episode about the House Of Lords and tweed smelling faintly of urine when it gets damp - piss off.

27464.  Wed Oct 19, 2005 5:06 pm Reply with quote

This was one of the topics covered in the first show of the second series, the question being: "Why, oh why take the piss out of Newcastle?"

27472.  Wed Oct 19, 2005 6:14 pm Reply with quote

Urine does contain ammonia, but not a great deal. Perhaps this is why we have to take the piss out of Geordies so much?

27615.  Thu Oct 20, 2005 6:54 pm Reply with quote

Flash - As I was typing that I wondered if it was the show which mentioned this, but I think I heard it elsewhere as well.

Confusus - I think the useful scientific term for this is "near zero"! :D

I still don't believe it about the House of Lords though!

27626.  Thu Oct 20, 2005 9:56 pm Reply with quote

HarryAlffa wrote:

I still don't believe it about the House of Lords though!

Probably a rumour spread by the noble lords as a cover story to explain the smell caused by senile incontinence

Frederick The Monk
27750.  Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:22 pm Reply with quote

Could I suggest moistening a Lord? You might be rather surprised.

Frederick The Monk
27751.  Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:22 pm Reply with quote

So might the lord come to think of it.

27998.  Sun Oct 23, 2005 6:00 pm Reply with quote

Could I suggest moistening a Baroness instead?

28000.  Sun Oct 23, 2005 6:02 pm Reply with quote

That would have a completely different meaning though surely?

28321.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:51 pm Reply with quote

Can I suggest dowsing the whole House.....but only AFTER the fire starts to die down?

28371.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:11 pm Reply with quote

HarryAlffa wrote:
Could I suggest moistening a Baroness instead?

As long as the baroness is lying at the bottom of a deep hole, breathing its last

28435.  Wed Oct 26, 2005 10:16 am Reply with quote

It would be better to put all peasants in a deep dark hole before moistening them with concrete.

Frederick The Monk
28998.  Mon Oct 31, 2005 4:48 am Reply with quote

Here are our original notes on why the House of Lords smells of wee.

The favoured cloth for suits worn by the landed peerage in the House was Harris Tweed for two reasons:
1/. It was symbolic. Each great estate had its own tweed just as clans had tartans.
2/. It was very tough - ideal for shooting on ones estate - and hence a suit could last generations.

It's one drawback was the method of it's manufacture. Sheeps' wool does not hold dye well so requires a chemical MORDANT to fix it. In the Tweed manufacturing areas this was usually stale human urine. The cloth when it came off the loom was also loosely woven and needed to be 'fulled' to thicken it up and make it weather proof. This was also done using stale human urine. The process of kneeding and beating the urine soaked fabric was known as 'waulking'.

Whilst this made the life of the tweed weaver unappealing it had little effect on the wearer of the garments - unless that garment became wet, when the faint smell of stale human urine would rise off it.

Hence after a rain shower the House of Lords, or rather the hereditary peers in their old Tweeds, would smell of stale urine. With the removal of most of the hereditaries from the House (and with the introduction of chemical mordants) this smell has all but disappeared.

- Cheaper fabrics were fulled by machine and then dried on frames called tenters. The fabric was attached to the frame by metal hooks, hence the term, 'on tenterhooks'.

SOURCES: Shaw, M.F. Folksongs and folklore of South Uist
Campbell & Collinson. Hebridean Folksongs.

33709.  Wed Nov 23, 2005 5:40 am Reply with quote

UREA (ka)


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