“What Pleasure can the Drunkard have in the Reflection, that, while in his Cups, he retain’d only the Shape of a Man, and acted the Part of a Beast”– Silence Dogood aka Benjamin Franklin. New-England Courant, 1722
Benjamin Franklin – whether better recognised as one of Americas Founding Fathers or simply as the face on the Benjamin (the USD$100 note) Franklin was regardless, a man of great achievement. Alongside his lesser known accolades such as creator of Americas first lending library and fire department, or for his genius in inventing the Franklin Stove, Glass Armonica (not a wind instrument), lightning rod and bifocal glasses – Franklin was also an accomplished author and editor. And it was in this role that in 1737, he published an article citing over 200 different 18th century terms for being drunk.
A fan of literary since his apprenticeship as a printer at the age of 12, Franklin’s skill for writing was discovered from a young age despite writing in the pseudonym, Silence Dogood. In 1728 at the age of 22, Franklin would setup his first publication called The Pennsylvania Gazette with business partner Hugh Meredith. From this platform Franklin could voice his many opinions on politics and society within Americas biggest developing colony. A believer in moderation over temperance, Franklin wasn’t without opinion on the nation’s dependency of alcohol. And so, on June 2nd, 1736 Franklin published, The Drinkers Dictionary listing 228 common terms for the intoxicated. Of this he writes, “Drunkeness is a very unfortunate Vice [sic]…it bears no kind of Similitude with any sort of Virtue, from which it might possibly borrow a Name; and is therefore reduc’d to the wretched Necessity of being express’d by distant round-about Phrases…understood to signify plainly that a man is drunk.”
The Drinkers Dictionary
A He is Addled, He's casting up his Accounts, He's Afflicted, He's in his Airs.
B He's Biggy, Bewitch'd, Block and Block, Boozy, Bowz'd, Been at Barbadoes, Piss'd in the Brook, Drunk as a Wheel-Barrow, Burdock'd, Buskey, Buzzey, Has Stole a Manchet out of the Brewer's Basket, His Head is full of Bees, Has been in the Bibbing Plot, Has drank more than he has bled, He's Bungey, As Drunk as a Beggar, He sees the Bears, He's kiss'd black Betty, He's had a Thump over the Head with Sampson's Jawbone, He's Bridgey.
C He's Cat, Cagrin'd, Capable, Cramp'd, Cherubimical, Cherry Merry, Wamble Crop'd, Crack'd, Concern'd, Half Way to Concord, Has taken a Chirriping-Glass, Got Corns in his Head, A Cup to much, Coguy, Copey, He's heat his Copper, He's Crocus, Catch'd, He cuts his Capers, He's been in the Cellar, He's in his Cups, Non Compos, Cock'd, Curv'd, Cut, Chipper, Chickery, Loaded his Cart, He's been too free with the Creature, Sir Richard has taken off his Considering Cap, He's Chap-fallen,
D He's Disguiz'd, He's got a Dish, Kill'd his Dog, Took his Drops, It is a Dark Day with him, He's a Dead Man, Has Dipp'd his Bill, He's Dagg'd, He's seen the Devil,
E He's Prince Eugene, Enter'd, Wet both Eyes, Cock Ey'd, Got the Pole Evil, Got a brass Eye, Made an Example, He's Eat a Toad & half for Breakfast. In his Element,
F He's Fishey, Fox'd, Fuddled, Sore Footed, Frozen, Well in for't, Owes no Man a Farthing, Fears no Man, Crump Footed, Been to France, Flush'd, Froze his Mouth, Fetter'd, Been to a Funeral, His Flag is out, Fuzl'd, Spoke with his Friend, Been at an Indian Feast.
G He's Glad, Groatable, Gold-headed, Glaiz'd, Generous, Booz'd the Gage, As Dizzy as a Goose, Been before George, Got the Gout, Had a Kick in the Guts, Been with Sir John Goa, Been at Geneva, Globular, Got the Glanders.
H Half and Half, Hardy, Top Heavy, Got by the Head, Hiddey, Got on his little Hat, Hammerish, Loose in the Hilts, Knows not the way Home, Got the Hornson, Haunted with Evil Spirits, Has Taken Hippocrates grand Elixir,
I He's Intoxicated, Jolly, Jagg'd, Jambled, Going to Jerusalem, Jocular, Been to Jerico, Juicy.
K He's a King, Clips the King's English, Seen the French King, The King is his Cousin, Got Kib'd Heels, Knapt, Het his Kettle.
L He's in Liquor, Lordly, He makes Indentures with his Leggs, Well to Live, Light, Lappy, Limber,
M He sees two Moons, Merry, Middling, Moon-Ey'd, Muddled, Seen a Flock of Moons, Maudlin, Mountous, Muddy, Rais'd his Monuments, Mellow,
N He's eat the Cocoa Nut, Nimptopsical, Got the Night Mare,
O He's Oil'd, Eat Opium, Smelt of an Onion, Oxycrocium, Overset,
P He drank till he gave up his Half-Penny, Pidgeon Ey'd, Pungey, Priddy, As good conditioned as a Puppy, Has scalt his Head Pan, Been among the Philistines, In his Prosperity, He's been among the Philippians, He's contending with Pharaoh, Wasted his Paunch, He's Polite, Eat a Pudding Bagg,
Q He's Quarrelsome,
R He's Rocky, Raddled, Rich, Religious, Lost his Rudder, Ragged, Rais'd, Been too free with Sir Richard, Like a Rat in Trouble.
S He's Stitch'd, Seafaring, In the Sudds, Strong, Been in the Sun, As Drunk as David's Sow, Swampt, His Skin is full, He's Steady, He's Stiff, He's burnt his Shoulder, He's got his Top Gallant Sails out, Seen the yellow Star, As Stiff as a Ring-bolt, Half Seas over, His Shoe pinches him, Staggerish, It is Star-light with him, He carries too much Sail, Stew'd Stubb'd, Soak'd, Soft, Been too free with Sir John Strawberry, He's right before the Wind with all his Studding Sails out, Has Sold his Senses.
T He's Top'd, Tongue-ty'd, Tann'd, Tipium Grove, Double Tongu'd, Topsy Turvey, Tipsey, Has Swallow'd a Tavern Token, He's Thaw'd, He's in a Trance, He's Trammel'd,
V He makes Virginia Fence, Valiant, Got the Indian Vapours,
W The Malt is above the Water, He's Wise, He's Wet, He's been to the Salt Water, He's Water-soaken, He's very Weary, Out of the Way.
Franklin closes the article in true diplomatic style offering to his readers (of who many would frequently represent the terms above) the comfort that, “I fear’d [sic] being guilty of Injustice to the Brute Creation, if I represented Drunkenness as a beastly Vice, since, ’tis well-known, that the Brutes are in general a very sober sort of People.” – Something perhaps worth defending the next time you’re cut off at your local bar?
Ben Franklin also opened an additional publication named The South-Carolina Gazette on April 30th of the following year in which he published a similar list but containing only 19 terms which all but three were from the above list. Regardless of these two articles however, recent research has revealed that Franklin was most likely not the author of the original terms as a similar list of 237 words were published beforehand in the New England Weekly Journal on July 6th 1735 from an anonymous reader in a letter to the editor. Of this original list, there are only 7 different terms compared to the dictionary published by Franklin. These terms left out by Franklin are;
He’s half Bay over He’s got a Piece of Bread and Cheese in his Head He’s eat some Hull Cheese Elevated He’s Happy Cut his Legg Just fit Company for a wet Quaker One and Thirty
Regardless of the origins, it’s an impressive list of 18th century slang for intoxication. If we were to compile an equivalent list today to lie in wait for the next few centuries, what would it include? – bollocks’ed, polished, bent, one too many, timmy tankered, trollied, munted, smashed, pissed, hanging…
- The Source for Benjamin Franklins “The Drinkers Dictionary”, American Speech by Joel S. Berson – 2006
- The History Carper – The Drinkers Dictionary by Benjamin Franklin Posted, January 13, 1737 (full text)