How Drunk Are You? Let Me Count the Ways!
In researching words for drunkenness, I was appalled by how many I found. Clearly words to denote various states of alcoholic stupor are in frequent demand.
Here are a few of the terms, categorized according to degrees of drunkenness. Some are more literary than others.
drunk as a lord
in his cups
feeling no pain
drunk as a skunk
three sheets to the wind
NOTE: This entry for sheet from Online Etymology Dictionary explains the origin of that last expression:
sheet -“rope that controls a sail,” O.E. sceatline “sheet-line,” from sceata “lower part of sail,” originally “piece of cloth,” from same root as sheet (1) (q.v.). The sense transferred to the rope by 1294. This is probably the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind “drunk and disorganized,” first recorded 1821, an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus out of control.
Here’s how Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Nashe described the progressive stages of drunkenness:
The first is ape drunk, and he leaps and sings and hollers and danceth to the heavens. The second is lion drunk, and he flings the pots about the house, calls his hostess whore, breaks the glass windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrel with any man that speaks to him. The third is swine drunk – heavy, lumpish, and sleepy, and cries for a little more drink and a few more clothes. The fourth is sheep drunk, wise in his own conceit when he cannot bring forth a right word. The fifth is maudlin drunk, when a fellow will weep for kindness in the midst of his ale, and kiss you, saying “By God, Captain, I love thee; go thy ways, thou dost not think so often of me as I do of thee. I would, if it pleased God, I did not love thee so well as I do”- and then he puts his finger in his eye, and cries.” —Quotes from the Works of Thomas Nashe
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