Beirut (drinking game)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 4 20:59:39 UTC 2014

Lehigh University's Theta Delta Chi fraternity lays claim to "Beirut"
as the name of the drinking game that grew out of Dartmouth's "(beer)
pong." (Dartmouth's "pong" originally involved paddles, while "Beirut"
is the paddle-less variant.) A 2005 article from the now-defunct
_Dartmouth Independent_, "The Arguably Definitive History of Pong,"
provides details of the Lehigh origin:

In 1980, Israel invaded Lebanon in a pre-emptive war against the PLO.
Reagan organized a cease-fire between the two parties and sent troops
to maintain the peace. But, in October 1983, things went awry when a
Hizbullah suicide bomber blew up an American barracks in Beirut,
killing 241 U.S. Marines.
"Thinking back, I believe that the game got its name based on an
analogy between the Ping-Pong balls flying across the table and
landing on the opponent's side and an idea that the US should bomb
Beirut as a result of the casualties in the area," said Duane Kotsen
'86, president of Theta Delta Chi in 1985 at Lehigh University, the
alleged birthplace of Beirut. Kotsen also added that the name of the
game "reflects respect for the Marine and US losses in the region at
that point in history."
The father of the game was Brian "Stubby" Poulton, a brother at Theta
Delta Chi. Kotsen claimed that Stubby organized games of Beirut and
helped introduce it to other fraternities on "The Hill." There is even
a story that Stubby visited nearby Bucknell University and spread the
game there as well. However, according to an email written by Stubby,
he had actually discovered Beirut in its incipient and crude version
at Bucknell University in 1983. When Stubby came back, he showed it to
the rest of his brothers, who had taken to the game immediately. By
1984-85, Beirut had replaced Zoom, Schwartz, and Profigliano as the
mainstream game at Theta Delta Chi. By 1986, everyone at Lehigh was
playing it.
Lehigh, then, may not exactly be the birthplace of Beirut, but the
brothers of Theta Delta Chi did much to popularize the game. In
addition to organizing Beirut tournaments, the brothers of Theta Delta
Chi created a Beirut table with the map of Beirut in 1986. The
popularity of the game stemmed from its being a faster alternative to
Beer pong and taking almost 15-25 minutes for the consumption of over
ten beers. As one brother put it: "Since if you played, you got

I checked the archives of Lehigh's _Brown and White_, but the earliest
reference to "Beirut" I can find comes from 1989.

1989 Mar. 14 _Brown & White_ (Lehigh U.) 11 Top ten reasons for the
brown cops... Fetch stray balls from Beirut games.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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