tight as a tick

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Dec 20 19:39:01 UTC 2007

Just a guess: Might the "tight" in "tight as a tick" refer not to the tick being attached tightly to the host but rather to the tick's blood-filled body?  In that case, the tick's skin is pulled very tight to accomodate all the liquid.  It really is impressive to see a tiny tick become bloated from lengthy imbibing.

This might explain the figurative use of "tight as a tick" to mean "very drunk."  The imbiber of liquor has durnk so much of it, his/her body is likened to that of a fully-imbibed tick.

Gerald Cohen
P.S. --  OT for anyone interested: I have a new e-mail address (gcohen at mst.edu), although my former address (gcohen at umr.edu) is supposed to (but doesn't always) work just fine until some time in July. This change is due to my campus adopting a new name. Missouri University of Science and Technology, replacing the former University of Missouri-Rolla.


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of RonButters at AOL.COM
Sent: Thu 12/20/2007 12:51 PM
Subject: tight as a tick

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.


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