Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Drinking Euphemisms

Drinking Euphemisms

Years ago I worked with a student teacher who – upon having to use the restroom – would say, “Excuse me. I have to euphemize.” Though this post doesn’t look at all the gloriously creative euphemisms for using the restroom (this sentence contains one of the mildest ones available), it goes out to Peter Sweeny.

The word euphemism first arrived in English in 1650. The original Greek form meant to speak with fair words, or good speech. It comes from the Greeks’ understanding that speaking some words brought poor fortune. For instance, it wasn’t considered wise to mention the Furies (known for their heartless punishments of unavenged crimes) by name. Instead, they might be referred to as the Gracious Ones. In modern tales, we see this same phenomenon in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, in which the stunningly evil antagonist is spoken of as he who must not be named.

Ah, the euphemism: humanity’s tendency to

- say what we don’t mean in hopes of avoiding the possibility that we might be understood,
- communicate to an intended audience while keeping others “on the outs”, or
- avoid being offensive while saying something, well, offensive.

Some fine euphemisms for drinking include:
-to lift an elbow
-to have a snort
-to fall victim to barley fever
-to take one’s medicine
-to enjoy a wee drop
-to feed one’s kitty
-to get a snootful
-to enjoy a nip
-to eat the pudding bag

If a drinker over-imbibes & we intend to criticize, we might say s/he is:
-stewed to the gills
-under the table

Or when we’d like to be less critical, we might say s/he:
-is a little squiffy
-is impaired
-is in a difficulty
-is in a rosy glow
-is in a muddle
-is making a night of it
-is making a trip to Baltimore
-is a bit ruddy-faced
-is sotally tober

And the morning after a bit of liquid debauchery, we might say s/he:
-has flu-like symptoms
-is under the weather
-is suffering the wrath of grapes
-has a Dutch headache
-has a hair-ache
-has the brown bottle flu
-has an inexplicable headache
-has hamster mouth
-is wearing loud shoes

Do any of you have a favorite drinking euphemism to add to the pot? Please do so in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, Drunktionary, Wordnik, & Ralph Keyes’ Euphemania


  1. I don't think I'd heard the pudding one. I always liked "three sheets to the wind". I guess that's the one that results in being "under the weather." Then there is "driving the porcelain bus". I'll bet people will come up with some good ones for this. So many creative ways to say "suffering from alcohol poisoning."

  2. The euphemism I am most familiar with for drunk is "loaded". The day after, "had a bit too much fun". Pretty polite. Then, yes, the inevitable "hugging his porcelain friend". Again, pretty polite descriptions of what was most likely not very polite behavior.

  3. Hi Christine & Anne,
    "The pudding one" really cracks me up. I'm not sure quite how I missed including the porcelain friend/bus, as that one has always brought a chuckle. I think my favorite of the bunch is "Sotally Tober". It fits right in with, "Was I fiving too drast, Occifer?"