Tight = drunk

Sarah Lang slang at UCHICAGO.EDU
Wed May 2 00:51:20 UTC 2007

On May 1, 2007, at 3:21 PM, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Tight = drunk
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> On Tue, May 01, 2007 at 04:06:49PM -0400, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> Maybe so now (the dictionaries don't always make it clear that
>> "tight" is stronger than "tipsy", but my intuitions go your way), but
>> that makes the Farmer and Henley cite, repeated here, all the more
>> remarkable--
>> 1868. Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly.
>> 'No sir, not a bit tipsy', said Harding, interpreting his glance.
>> 'Not even what Mr Cutbill would call tight!'
>> Clearly there's a scale presupposed here on which "tipsy" outranks
>> "tight", at least for Harding and Mr. Cutbill:  the referent here is
>> not even tight, let alone tipsy.  So perhaps there has been a
>> sesquicentennial shift resulting in the topping up of "tight", the
>> watering down of "tipsy", or both.
> Some more context:
>   L'Estrange now looked the speaker fully in the face; and to
>   his astonishment saw that signs of his having drank [sic]
>   freely--which, strangely enough, had hitherto escaped his
>   notice--were now plainly to be seen there.
>     'No, sir, not a bit tipsy,' said Harding, interpreting his
>   glance; 'not even what Mr. Cutbill calls "tight"!...It's
>   seventeen years since I took so much wine before.'
> I note that Ogilvie's _Imperial Dictionary_ of 1883
> specifically defines this as "slightly intoxicated; somewhat
> under the influence of strong drink; tipsy", thought it quotes
> this same passage as evidence. While the Imperial doesn't
> explicitly rank (indeed, it equates) _tight_ and _tipsy_, it
> clearly doesn't think that _tight_ means 'totally blasted'.
> In my own idiolect _tight_ has an exceedingly old-fashioned
> feel--Fitzgerald era, not even Cheever era. I could only
> imagine it being said in a retro-hip cocktail context.
> Jesse Sheidlower

Sounds like a mission--one retro-hip cocktail party at a time.;)

Graduate Student, PhD Program
Department of English
Northwestern University
University Hall 215
1897 Sheridan Rd.
Evanston, IL 60208-2240

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list