from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The process of wetting a surface to be grained with a sponge moistened with beer and then rubbing it with whiting, in order that the colors which are mixed with beer may adhere.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • Wordnik’s definition of “cissing” in the main entry restricts the word to an obsolete technique in decorative painting. The beer sponging process may have resulted in a mottled and streaked surface that imitates wood graining but the same effects are achieved otherwise these days and “cissing” is used to describe a paint surface that has failed due to improper preparation.

    Art History Archive: In painting, an application of color that would have resulted in a flat area of paint (covering with an even thickness), but resulted instead in running streaks and bare spots, usually because of poor wetting of the surface.

    Oxford Dictionaries: (In decorating) failure of paint to adhere properly to a surface.

    I have confirmed this with an informant formerly engaged in the decorative painting business. This informant also opines that there is an inherent flaw in the archaic practice of cissing:

    Clue one: the painter keeps pissing.

    Clue two: the beer pail is missing.

    You will not expunge

    A drink from that sponge.

    No painter wastes lager on cissing.

    August 5, 2014