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14 Ways of Saying "Drunk" Across the United States

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Three sheets to the wind. Seeing double. Tanked. There are numerous different ways of saying “drunk.” (Benjamin Franklin alone gathered 200 synonyms.) And depending where you are in the United States, you might hear a different way of describing a state of inebriation. Here are 14 tipsy terms from around the U.S., brought to you with help from our friends at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE).

1. CORK HIGH AND BOTTLE DEEP

You might hear this colorful idiom in Georgia. In a 1960 novel, Walk Egypt, a group of Atlanta fishermen are nearly suffocated by a stopped-up chimney. “They was cork-high and bottle deep,” the wonderfully-named Aunt Baptist says. “Or they’da smelled it.”

2. DRUNK AS A BOWDOW

This term for “very drunk” is probably a variation of drunk as a boiled owl, according to DARE. Why “boiled”? It’s slang for “intoxicated,” with the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1885, perhaps along the same lines of stewed or pickled. Why owl? That’s not as clear. DARE Chief Editor George Goebel suggests that “the image of the owl as a comically solemn and somewhat stupid bird is certainly evocative of certain stages of drunkenness.”

3. PIFFLICATED

This word for tipsy or drunk seems to be a riff on spifflicated, another old-timey term for drunk. Spifflicated seems to have first been used by American writer O. Henry in 1902 and comes from the verb spiflicate, meaning “to deal with in such a way as to confound or overcome completely.” Pifflicated— also, piffed, pifficated, and piffled—might be used in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

4. FLABBERGASTED

You might be flabbergasted by something shocking or surprising, or by something boozy, at least if you’re in Pennsylvania.

5. PLOTZED

Wasted in Wisconsin? You could say you're plotzed or plotched. This might come from the Yiddish plotz, meaning to explode (figuratively), to split at one's seams, or to die from laughter, etc.

6. SKUNK-DRUNK

If you’re skunk-drunk, you’re thoroughly soused. This term is chiefly used in the South and South Midland. Other drunk-as-a-skunk sayings include skunk-bit, which might be used in the Pacific Northwest, skunked in Minnesota, and skunky in California. Why skunks? Perhaps you might be as "stinking drunk" as a skunk, or because of the rhyme.

7. LAP-LEGGED DRUNK

The next time someone is so plastered they’re walking wobbly, you can say they’re lap-legged drunk. Lap-legged might come from lapsided, a variation of "lopsided."

8. DRUNK AS COOTER BROWN

Who’s Cooter Brown and why is he so drunk? The origin of this chiefly southern term is debated. Cooter Brown might be “some proverbial drunkard,” according to a quote in DARE. The Farmer’s Almanac describes him as someone who lived on the Mason-Dixon line during the Civil War. To avoid getting drafted by either the North or the South, he got drunk and stayed that way. A Way with Words, on the other hand, says cooter means “box turtle” and refers to “a turtle swimming around in its own drink.” Also drunk as a cootie.

9. TEAD (UP)

Tea up is an old-fashioned term meaning to drink to excess. Hence, tead or tead up means drunk. Tea is a slang term for “spirituous or intoxicating” liquor, as the OED puts it, although why isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s acting as a euphemism.

10. OVER THE BAY, HALF THE BAY OVER

These pieces of lingo for “somewhat intoxicated” are chiefly used in the Northeast. As per a quote from Maine Lingo: A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular, “Over the bay means one has had more than enough to drink and is temporarily out of contact.”

11. HAVE BALLAST ON BOARD

Originally a nautical expression that referred to placing heavy material on a ship to stabilize it when it’s empty of cargo.

12. MAKE (A) VIRGINIA FENCE

Chiefly used in New England and the South, Virginia fence, also known as a rail or worm fence, is made by stacking the rails so their ends overlap at an angle. A quote from the 1949 book A Word Geography of the Eastern United States says this “old-fashioned rail fence [is] built of overlapping rails laid zigzag fashion,” and in New England “is commonly known as a Virginia rail fence to distinguish it from the post-and-rail fence of New England.” To make a Virginia fence, means to walk unsteadily or be drunk.

13. HOW-COME-YOU-SO

Also how-came-you-so, this old-timey tipsy term might have been heard in New York and Massachusetts. From a 1911 book called Cap’n Warren’s Wards: “One evenin’ Labe was comin’ home pretty how-come-you-so, and he fell into Jandab Wixon’s well.” How came you so also means to be pregnant: “She’s how-came-you-so.”

14. ACKNOWLEDGE THE CORN

The next time you want to convince a pal they’ve had enough, you can say, “Just acknowledge the corn, dude.” While this phrase originally meant “to admit to being drunk,” it also came to mean to confess to any mistake. Also confess the corn, own the corn, acknowledge the coin, and acknowledge the malt. Corn here refers to corn liquor. While formerly widespread, the saying is now chiefly used in the Midland.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
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Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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