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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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Beyond “Buffalo buffalo”: 9 Other Repetitive Sentences From Around The World
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Famously, in English, it’s possible to form a perfectly grammatical sentence by repeating the word buffalo (and every so often the place name Buffalo) a total of eight times: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo essentially means “buffalo from Buffalo, New York, who intimidate other buffalo from Buffalo, New York, are themselves intimidated by buffalo from Buffalo, New York.” But repetitive or so-called antanaclastic sentences and tongue twisters like these are by no means unique to English—here are a few in other languages that you might want to try.

1. “LE VER VERT VA VERS LE VERRE VERT” // FRENCH

This sentence works less well in print than Buffalo buffalo, of course, but it’s all but impenetrable when read aloud. In French, le ver vert va vers le verre vert means “the green worm goes towards the green glass,” but the words ver (worm), vert (green), vers (towards), and verre (glass) are all homophones pronounced “vair,” with a vowel similar to the E in “bet” or “pet.” In fact, work the French heraldic word for squirrel fur, vair, in there somewhere and you’d have five completely different interpretations of the same sound to deal with.

2. “CUM EO EO EO EO QUOD EUM AMO” // LATIN

Eo can be interpreted as a verb (“I go”), an adverb ("there," "for that reason"), and an ablative pronoun (“with him” or “by him”) in Latin, each with an array of different shades of meaning. Put four of them in a row in the context cum eo eo eo eo quod eum amo, and you’ll have a sentence meaning “I am going there with him because I love him.”

3. “MALO MALO MALO MALO” // LATIN

An even more confusing Latin sentence is malo malo malo malo. On its own, malo can be a verb (meaning “I prefer,” or “I would rather”); an ablative form of the Latin word for an apple tree, malus (meaning “in an apple tree”); and two entirely different forms (essentially meaning “a bad man,” and “in trouble” or “in adversity”) of the adjective malus, meaning evil or wicked. Although the lengths of the vowels differ slightly when read aloud, put all that together and malo malo malo malo could be interpreted as “I would rather be in an apple tree than a wicked man in adversity.” (Given that the noun malus can also be used to mean “the mast of a ship,” however, this sentence could just as easily be interpreted as, “I would rather be a wicked man in an apple tree than a ship’s mast.”)

4. “FAR, FÅR FÅR FÅR?” // DANISH

Far (pronounced “fah”) is the Danish word for father, while får (pronounced like “for”) can be used both as a noun meaning "sheep" and as a form of the Danish verb , meaning "to have." Far får får får? ultimately means “father, do sheep have sheep?”—to which the reply could come, får får ikke får, får får lam, meaning “sheep do not have sheep, sheep have lambs.”

5. “EEEE EE EE” // MANX

Manx is the Celtic-origin language of the Isle of Man, which has close ties to Irish. In Manx, ee is both a pronoun (“she” or “it”) and a verb (“to eat”), a future tense form of which is eeee (“will eat”). Eight letter Es in a row ultimately can be divided up to mean “she will eat it.”

6. “COMO COMO? COMO COMO COMO COMO!” // SPANISH

Como can be a preposition (“like,” “such as”), an adverb (“as,” “how”), a conjunction (“as”), and a verb (a form of comer, “to eat”) in Spanish, which makes it possible to string together dialogues like this: Como como? Como como como como! Which means “How do I eat? I eat like I eat!”

7. “Á Á A Á Á Á Á.” // ICELANDIC

Á is the Icelandic word for river; a form of the Icelandic word for ewe, ær; a preposition essentially meaning “on” or “in;” and a derivative of the Icelandic verb eiga, meaning “to have,” or “to possess.” Should a person named River be standing beside a river and simultaneously own a sheep standing in or at the same river, then that situation could theoretically be described using the sentence Á á á á á á á in Icelandic.

8. “MAI MAI MAI MAI MAI” // THAI

Thai is a tonal language that uses five different tones or patterns of pronunciation (rising, falling, high, low, and mid or flat) to differentiate between the meanings of otherwise seemingly identical syllables and words: glai, for instance, can mean both “near” and “far” in Thai, just depending on what tone pattern it’s given. Likewise, the Thai equivalent of the sentence “new wood doesn’t burn, does it?” is mai mai mai mai mai—which might seem identical written down, but each syllable would be given a different tone when read aloud.

9. “THE LION-EATING POET IN THE STONE DEN” // MANDARIN CHINESE

Mandarin Chinese is another tonal language, the nuances of which were taken to an extreme level by Yuen Ren Chao, a Chinese-born American linguist and writer renowned for composing a bizarre poem entitled "The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den." When written in its original Classical Chinese script, the poem appears as a string of different characters. But when transliterated into the Roman alphabet, every one of those characters is nothing more than the syllable shi:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The only difference between each syllable is its intonation, which can be either flat (shī), rising (shí), falling (shì) or falling and rising (shǐ); you can hear the entire poem being read aloud here, along with its English translation.

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'Froyo,' 'Troll,' and 'Sriracha' Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Looking for the right word to describe the time you spend drinking before heading out to a party, or a faster way to say “frozen yogurt?" Merriam-Webster is here to help. The 189-year-old English vocabulary giant has just added 250 new words and definitions to their online dictionary, including pregame and froyo.

New words come and go quickly, and it’s Merriam-Webster’s job to keep tabs on the terms that have staying power. “As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon,” they wrote in their announcement.

Froyo is just one of the recent additions to come from the culinary world. Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; choux pastry, a type of dough; and sriracha, a Thai chili sauce that’s been around for decades but has just recently exploded in the U.S., are now all listed on Merriam-Webster's website.

Of course, the internet was once again a major contributor to this most recent batch of words. Some new terms, like ransomware (“malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files”) come from the tech world, while words like troll ("to harass, criticize, or antagonize [someone] especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts”) were born on social media. Then there’s the Internet of Things, a concept that shifts the web off our phones and computers and into our appliances.

Hive mind, dog whistle, and working memory are just a few of the new entries to receive the Merriam-Webster stamp of approval. To learn more about how some words make it into the dictionary while others get left out, check these behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionary editors.

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