tight as a tick

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 20 19:30:57 UTC 2007

At 1:51 PM -0500 12/20/07, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>I would not find it odd to use this either in the sense "drunk," though the
>sense of "tight" found in "tightwad" always seemed to me to make the
>most sense
>(and, therefore, I assumed this to be the original sense). The use for "tight
>race" sounds weird, but only because it makes less sense in terms of the
>mental leap needed to make the connection--ticks are tight to the body (like a
>miser and her money). Less probably, drunk people clutch furniture
>and lampposts
>to stay erect. Ticks themselves do not seem particularly drunken.
>Do people really say "tight" for drunk these days? Sounds rather
>old-fashioned to me.
>I'm more than a little surprise that Dennis Preston did not find the
>parsimonious sense.
>I agree with Larry that these similes quickly get extended beyond theirs. I'd
>assume that "high as a kite" started with something more literal than
>drunkenness, though just what I can't imagine.
I'm not sure more literal, but more general, or so I was thinking.
OED's sense 16a under "high" covers 'emotionally exalted, elated,
merry' and dates to the 18th c.  But on closer examination, "high as
a kite" appears under 16b, which is specifically 'excited with drink,
intoxicated'.  No examples of "high as a kite" meaning simply
'extremely elated' appear.  So maybe this isn't the best example of
extension of a fixed simile across polysemous entries, although it
has clearly transferred from the 'drunk' to the 'stoned (on
marijuana, etc.)' senses.  I'm pretty sure the "queer as a
three-dollar bill" works, though.


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