THE GAME OF THE NAME

By Mildred Boyd

 

barney gumbleIt is not clear why today’s society seems to consider the word “drunk” taboo. It was not always so. Cowboys and working stiffs used to get frankly drunk on Saturday nights, but such overindulgence was certainly not confined to the lower classes. There must be some basis for the common term “Drunk as a Lord.”

Now nobody ever seems to want to call a drunk a drunk except on the police blotter, as in “Drunk and disorderly.” Even the traffic cops take refuge in euphemism these days, and often that is abbreviated. What used to be “Drunk driving” is now thinly disguised as DWI for “Driving While Intoxicated” or DUI for “Driving under the influence.”

A complete list of the synonyms for “drunk” could fill a small book. Some are prissily polite, like tipsy, in his cups, squiffy, tiddley, spifficated, looped, fuddled, sozzled and tight. Others are more derogatory, like blotto and stinko, and some are downright alarming if taken literally. Smashed, blitzed, wasted, trashed, blasted, bonked and stoned fall in this category.

Some words seem to apply to specific professions, but it is not only carpenters and mechanics that get oiled, tanked, hammered, plastered, shellacked and loaded nor cooks who get baked, boiled, fried, stewed, pickled and crocked. And you don’t have to be a sailor to come home sloshed, slewed, half seas over or three sheets in the wind.

Some of these terms have been around for a long time. One rather abstruse antonym for sobriety, ebriety, was recorded as early as 1582. Tight first appeared in print in 1837 and plastered in 1912. New ones are being added all the time. It would be interesting to know what our great-great grandchildren will call it when they have tied one on.

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