It is often seen that what matters in a culture is expressed by the number of terms a language has for a word. For example, the Sami people who live in northern Russia and Scandinavia have 180 words related to snow and ice and 1,000 words for reindeer. In English we have the most words/slang for:
The term “booze” has been around for at least 500 years and many expressions related to being drunk have been around in the English language for an even longer time still. In 1737, Benjamin Franklin compiled a list of 228 terms for being drunk. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 3,000 terms of slang in the English language for being drunk, and new terms are continually being invented. Some of the more interesting ones are:
- Feeling no pain
- High as a kite
- Lit up like a Christmas Tree
- Out like a light
- Stewed to the gills
- Three sheets to the wind
- Under the tabled
The Eyes Have It
Beyond words that describe being drunk, It is perhaps even more interesting that there are many slang terms that express what alcohol does to the eyes. More specifically, what alcohol does to the appearance of the eyes. This is reflected in the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, which the police in the US and Canada conduct to determine alcohol intoxication. No surprise, the most reliable test involves the eye – the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.
In the UK, police use the Physical Attributes of Drunkenness Scale to detect alcohol intoxication. The 3 tests involve speech, eyes and gait. The eyes are assessed to be either “clear” or “glazed”. Glazed eyes are the most sensitive to alcohol of all the physical attributes and experience their transition at a mean BAC of 0.106 g/100mL. The following are some slang terms related to the eyes:
- Got a brass eye
- Wet both eyes
In the words of the old Eagles’ tune, “Honey, you can’t hide your lyin eyes”!
Levine, H.G., “The Vocabulary of Drunkenness”, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 42(11): 1038-1051, 1981
Dents, S., “What Made the Crocodile Cry? 101 Questions About the English Language “, Oxford University Press, 178 pps, 22 October 2009.