Quote: You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 14 18:49:10 UTC 2012

Quotation maven Nigel Rees posted the following query in February:

Q4346  Where did the saying "you’re not drunk if you can lie on the
floor without holding on" originate - i.e. before any association with
Dean Martin?


In 1905 a version of the joke was printed in a Connecticut newspaper.
No attribution was given, and the quip was described as an "old rule".
An acknowledgment to the "New York World" indicated that the joke was
published somewhat earlier in that periodical. The variant phrasing
"never drunk" was used instead of "not drunk".

Cite: 1905 September 15, Meriden Daily Journal, When Is A Man Drunk?
[Acknowledgment: New York World], Page 6, Column 3, Meriden,
Connecticut. (Google News Archive)
[Begin excerpt]
The old rule that a man is never drunk if he can lie on the sidewalk
without holding on is not without merit, and always deserves careful
judicial consideration. For one thing, it is conclusive and leaves no
opportunity for dispute.
[End excerpt]

In 1963 an article headlined "Title of Clown King is Secure" with the
subtitle "Joe E. Lewis Provides Fun at Blue Room" described a recent
night club performance by the comedian Joe E. Lewis during which he
employed a version of the gag.

Cite: 1963 November 22, Times-Picayune, Title of Clown King is Secure
by Vincent Randazzo, Section 4, Page 11, Column 1, [GNA Page 70], New
Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
Other little vignettes we liked were: "I went on a diet for two weeks
and lost 14 days." "You are never drunk if you can lie on the floor
without holding on."
[End excerpt]

In 1975 the joke was printed in an interview article with Dean Martin.
(This information is based on a match in the Google News Archive. I
have not verified it in the Baltimore Sun ProQuest database at this

Cite: 1975 August 10, Baltimore Sun, Sipping and Rambling with Martin,
Start Page: T21, Baltimore, Maryland. (ProQuest; Not yet verified)
[Begin excerpt]
On booze: "I drink because I know when to stop. I say you're not drunk
if you can lay on the floor and not hang on.
[End excerpt]

In 1978 Dean Martin used the gag, but he credited it to Joe E. Lewis.

Cite: 1978 July 4, Esquire, Volume 90, Number 01, Dean Martin's
Closest Friend is Frank Sinatra by Jean Vallely, Start Page 61, Quote
Page 70, Column 1, Esquire Publishing, New York. (Verified on
[Begin excerpt]
"My great friend and drinking buddy Joe E. Lewis says you're not drunk
if you can lie on the floor without holding on." "Don't believe it
when they say carrots are good for your eyes. I stuck one in mine last
night and it hurt.
[End excerpt]


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