Tight, blotto, sotted, sloshed: in other words, DRUNK


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Out this week, just in time for Octoberfest, is ‘Drunk: the Definitive Drinkers Dictionary.’ A sleek, gray hardcover of manageable size, the book contains no less than 2,964 synonyms for drunk. ‘The English language includes more synonyms for the word ‘drunk’ than for any other word,’ writes author Paul Dickson. He should know, being the Guinness World Records holder for cataloging synonyms such as in his cups, irrigated, beer-soaked and casters up.

Several words and phrases for ‘drunk’ come with literary pedigrees. Up in his hat appears in James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses.’ Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ includes the colorful drunk as seven earls jumping fences. P.G. Wodehouse popularized blotto, which Edmund Wilson, in his 1927 ‘Lexicon on Prohibition,’ considered the drunkest of drunk. In ‘BUtterfield 8’ by John O’Hara, one woman scandalizes another by saying she was stewed to the balls. Shakespeare had many drunk words, including fap and cashiered. Sloppo, a rare term, is used by a character in Stephen King’s ‘The Stand.’ Carl Hiaasen’s ‘Double Whammy’ includes the phrase dog-sucking drunk. And in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby,’ Daisy Buchanan is found drunk as a monkey.

Jack London wrote a whole book on drinking -- 1913’s ‘John Barleycorn: Mr. London’s Graphic Story of Personal Experiences’ -- in which he favored the word jingled for pleasantly buzzed.

And the legendary L.A. Times columnist Jack Smith makes an appearance with bosky; he noted in a 1981 column, Dickson explains:

...that his favorite word was bosky, meaning ‘wooded or sylvan in the sense of a ‘bosky dell’’; he was quickly informed by a woman who wrote ‘Regency Romances’ that, according to ‘The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang,’ bosky is defined as ‘dazed, or fuddled; mildly drunk’ and that many of the ‘young nobles in Regencies are often a trifle bosky.’ Smith’s reaction was to like it all the more and it stood as his favorite word.

Some terms, such as beer-goggled, come from the online Urban Dictionary, and seem more tasteless than quaint -- but the now-charming bosky may have been crass in its day. If you’ve got a drunk synonym of your own, suggest it to the publisher here.


The book, which includes long stretches of unadorned lists of synonyms -- from deformed to dipped in the wassail bowl, from Count Drunkula to cross-eyed -- is illustrated by Brian Rea in a series of sketches with an appropriately sideways sensibility. The image on the cover is of a plain bar stool, tipping over.

The stories give the dictionary its juice. Where else could we learn that 30 years after the term plastered entered the drunk lexicon, the Arizona Lath and Plaster Institute would protest the use of the term? ‘You don’t say a person is ‘shingled’, ‘painted’ or ‘landscaped,’’ the institute’s executive secretary told the New York Times in 1956. ‘Then why say he is ‘plastered’?’ But, as anyone with this book will be able to tell you, we do use painted to mean drunk too.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

[Updated 12:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled Carl Hiaasen’s last name as Hiassen.]

l-hauled Octoberfest celebrants. Credit: Miguel Villagran / Getty Images