Friday, September 6, 2013

He's cherry merry

Writing in The Adventures of English, Melvyn Bragg says that before the Revolution, Benjamin Franklin compiled a list of 229 slang expressions meaning "he was drumk." Bragg doesn't list them all, but he lists quite a number of them. Here's my own still shorter list:

He's casting up his accounts

He sees the bears

He's cherry merry

He's half way to Concord

He's spoke with his friend

He's dizzy as a goose

He sees two moons

He's going to Jerusalem

He clips the King's English

He's got the Indian vapors

He's out of the way

He's oil'd

Of these, only the last is likely to be heard today. The Thesaurus of Slang, published in 1988, lists "well oiled" among the hundreds of slang terms in use at that time. Among others are tight, tipsy, bombed, stewed, stiff, stinko, plastered, hammered, wasted, looped, high, blotto, juiced, stoned, tanked, potted, fried, smashed, polluted, zonked, loaded, lubricated, mellow, paralyzed, petrified, pickled, wall-eyed, plonked, giddy, seeing double (which is a bit like seeing two moons), owled, plowed, dipsy, off the wagon, blasted, boggled, lathered, etc.

Each generation seems to add its own slang to the list. The hippies of the 1960s added the phrase spaced out, which referred to the influence of drugs but could also apply to intoxication from alcohol. The phrase was a reflection of that time, when exploration of space was on everyone's mind.

More recently, hip hoppers, also referring to drug use, gave us based out, blisted, bonged, buzzed, chopped, cracked out, dancin' with the devil, ripped and a number of other expressions, according to Tom Dalzell in Flappers 2 Rappers. Of these, dancin' with the devil at least sounds like it could have been heard and understood in Ben Franklin's time.

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