our cup-sprung and cherry-merry ancestors

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Dec 2 22:50:59 UTC 2004

On Mon, 29 Nov 2004 12:09:26 -0800, Arnold M. Zwicky
<zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
>> cultures overall have their preoccupations -- with baseball, or
>> singing, or witches, or intoxication, or hunting, or whatever -- and
>> these will tend to show up in an elaboration of the general vocabulary
>> in these domains; pretty much everyone learns about these domains and
>> practices talking about them, and uses the associated vocabulary to
>> help structure their world.

Speaking of cultures where intoxication is a lexically elaborate domain, I
came across the following list on the Early American Newspaper database,
dated 1771.  (The list is apparently reprinted from an earlier source--
the OED entry for "groggy" cites it as "1770 T. NORWORTH in Gentl. Mag.
559/2 [Eighty names for having drunk too much.]")


The Providence Gazette, April 13, 1771
Vol: VIII; Iss: 380; Page: 63

To express the condition of an Honest Fellow, and no Flincher, under the
effects of good Fellowship, it is said that he is,

1 Drunk,
2 Intoxicated,
3 Fuddled,
4 Flustered,
5 Rocky,
6 Tipsy,
7 Merry,
8 Half seas over,
9 As great as a Lord,
10 In for it,
11 Happy,
12 Bowzey,
13 Top-heavy,
14 Chuck-full,
15 Hocky,
16 Hiccins, probably from hiccuping,
17 Crop-sick,
18 Cup-stricken,
19 Cup-sprung. This is said to be the favourite state, and expression of a
great genius, who is a present porter to the U--v--s--ty C--ll--ge, O--d.
20 Hot-headed,
21 Switchery,
22 Pot-valiant,
23 Maudlin; from Magdalen the Penitent, who is always represented weeping,
in which she is resembled by those "who drink till the liquor flows out of
their eyes."
24 A little how came ye so?
25 Groggy; this is a West-Indian phrase; rum and water without sugar,
being called grogg.
26 In drink,
27 In his cups,
28 In his beer,
29 Crank; this is a sea-phrase; a ship is said to be crank, when by excess
of lading, or some other cause, she is liable to be overset.
20 Cut,
31 Cheary,
32 Cherry-merry,
33 Overtaken,
34 Elevated,
35 Forward,
36 Crooked,
37 Cast-away; a sea-phrase for being dead drunk.
38 Concerned,
39 Busky,
40 In his altitudes,
41 Tipperary; probably from being likely to tip, or fall down.
42 Topsey-suzy,
43 Exhilerated,
44 On a merry pin,
45 Half cock'd,
46 A little in the suds,
47 As wife as Solomon.

It is also said that he has

48 Business on both sides of the way,
49 Got his little hat on,
50 Bung'd his eye,
51 Got a drop in his eye,
52 Been in the sun,
53 Soak'd his face,
54 Come home by the villages; this is provincial; when a man comes home by
the fields, he meets nobody, consequently is sober; when he comes home by
the villages, he calls first at one house, then at another, and drinks at
55 Got a spur in the head; this is said by brother-jockies of each other.
56 Got a crumb in his beard,
57 Had a little,
58 Had enough,
59 Got more than he can carry,
60 Got his beer on board,
61 Got glass eyes,
62 Been among the Philistines; a pun upon the word FILL.
63 Lost his legs,
64 Been in a storm; this is a sea-phrase for being less than dead drunk.
65 Been in the Crown-Office; a pun upon the word crown used for the head.
66 Got his night-cap on,
67 Got his skin full,
68 Got his dose,
69 Had a cup too much.

Besides these modes of expressing drunkenness by what a man is, what he
has, and what he has had, the following express it by what he does.

70 Clips the King's English, i.e. does not speak plain.
71 Sees double,
72 Reels,
73 Heels and sets; a sea-phrase used of a boat in a rough sea.
74 Heels a little,
75 Shews his hob-nails; this is a provincial phrase for being so drunk as
not to be able to stand, so that the nails at the bottom of the shoes are
76 Looks as if he could not help it,
77 Crooks his elbow,
78 Goes over the tops of trees; this is provincial, and alludes to the
unequal pace of a drunken man, like that of stepping from a high tree to a
low one, and from a low one to a high one.
79 Makes a Virginia fence.

To these must be added one phrase that expresses drunkenness by what a man
cannot do; it is said by the sons of science at Oxford, of a man in
ebrious circumstances,

80 That he cannot support a right line.

I shall not mention the additions that have been made by way of
illustration to several of the terms in this list, although taken
together, they may be considered as separate phrases, among these are,

1 As drunk as a D--l,
2 As drunk as a piper,
3 As drunk as an owl,
4 As drunk as David's sow,
5 As drunk as a Lord,
6 As fuddled as an ape,
7 As merry as a prigg,
8 As happy as a King.


--Ben Zimmer

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