One of the marvelous things about drinking (said no hungover person EVER) is the sheer variety of drinks available for consumption. Not only that, we’ve also found (through many studious years of research) that different adult bevvies produce different effects on the drinker. A glass of red might make us feel positively merry, for example, while a shot of tequila (or three) is bound to end in talking to Ralph on the big white phone. Given that there are so many forms of drunkenness—some prettier than others—shouldn’t there be a unique way to describe each? That’s where the vocabulary-expanding Intoxerated: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary comes in. The author, Paul Dickson, has gone to extraordinary lengths to produce a darn near comprehensive list of synonyms for the word “drunk,” empowering us to more accurately describe any and all forays into intoxication. Our Monday morning recaps just got waaaaaay more interesting.—Carol Anne Grady
The English language includes more synonyms for “drunk” than for any other word. I suggest there are several reasons why this is so:
Firstly, the condition, which is self-imposed, invites words implying folly, foolishness, and self-inflicted dementia. People who are drunk look funny—not necessarily ha-ha funny, but odd funny. There is a slurring of speech and lack of visual focus that inspires wordplay.
Secondly, drinkers and those who fuel them feel more comfortable euphemizing their condition. Better to say that one was “a little squiffy” last night than to admit intoxication.
Thirdly, there is the potential for libel that comes with calling somebody drunk. “Tired and emotional” is the most famous such British euphemism.
And finally, I believe, as the late Stuart Flexner proposed in I Hear America Talking, the reason there are so many words for drunk is that people get drunk for different reasons and it affects them in different ways. So the vast English lexicon of synonyms simply reflects these many feelings and reactions.
The first person to ever collect and publish a sampling from the cornucopia of English slang for drunkenness was Benjamin Franklin, who included 228 terms for intoxication in his Drinker’s Dictionary in 1737. A close student of human nature, as well as a man devoted to honesty in speech, writing and character, Franklin published his list not only to ridicule drunkenness but to expose the lengths of euphemism people would resort to, rather than to say outright that a person was drunk.
Others followed Franklin’s lead in this quirky list-making pursuit, with diligent lexicographers tracking and recording along the way our collective inventiveness. I myself have dreamt about setting the “drunk” list record. And back in 1983 I succeeded, with the kind help of many, in setting the Guinness Book of World Records record for the most synonyms for a word—with 2,231 words and phrases for drunkenness.
But a record is a demanding thing to maintain. So, with the help of many, I submit my latest list of 2,964 synonyms for soused. [Editor’s Note: Of which we’ve shared several below. Want the rest? Buy the book. Got your own fave synonym for “three sheets to the wind”? Let us know in a comment below.]
|In rare form||Incognito||Inspired|
|Knockered||Low in the saddle||Marinated|
|Noodled||On a campaign||Piffled|
at the office
|With the fairies||Zozzled|