14 Ways of Saying "Drunk" Across the United States


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).


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.”


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.”


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.


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


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.”


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


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.


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.”


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.

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters

According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]


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