Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 6 17:12:18 UTC 2010

Perfectly possible.  Naval "torpedo juice" consisted of alcohol similarly

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 12:39 PM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Shellacking
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 6:56 AM, Michael Quinion wrote:
> >
> > My own take on the background to this word in this week's World Wide
> > Words:
> >
> >
> >
> > points out that the fashionable male bright young things of the early
> > 1920s in the US were reported to use a hair lacquer derived from shellac
> > (or, to be careful about it, were said to have "shellacked hair"). A
> > subscriber points out that, as this was the period of Prohibition, the
> > lacquer would have been one of the few preparations lawfully containing
> > alcohol. Might this be the origin of the slang term for being drunk?
> I initially discounted this theory, but now I'm finding more and more
> references to shellac being used in Prohibition-era alcoholic
> concoctions. This article (from Early American Newspapers) even refers
> to "the shellac drunk":
> ---
> "Extraction of Alcohol from Shellac is the Method of some Boozers"
> _Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser_, July 14, 1922, p. 5, col. 1
> Recently a man staggered into a downtown office highly inebriated, so
> much so, in fact, that it became urgent that the be taken home. All
> attempts to identify him by papers in his clothes failed, the only
> paper on his person being a scrap of hotel stationery bearing this
> inscription: "One 3 gallon can, one brown jug, and a quart of
> shellac."
> Those who were in the office at the time thought that the recipe must
> have been a joke, but it appears that it is not so, according to men
> who have had experience with the liquor hounds since Brother Volstead
> took a hand in the affairs of the American drinker.
> It is said that the habitual drunkard, when he cannot get whiskey,
> must have alcohol of some kind. To obtain this they have been known to
> purchase pure shellac in large quantities, and give it the blotter
> treatment. This consists of dipping the blotter in the shellac,
> withdrawing it and squeezing the blotter into another receptacle. Thie
> blotter will absorb the alcohol. From observation of the case
> mentioned above, the shellac drunk is anything but a pleasant
> experience.
> ---
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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